Essay on The Image as Memorial: Personal Photographs in Cultural Memory Analysis

Submitted By skbeavin
Words: 1097
Pages: 5

"A photograph can be an instant of life captured for eternity that will never cease looking back at you" (Brigitte Bardot) Photographs are resting places for the Dead as well as memorials for the Living. Textbooks and museums catalogue wars through images of battlefields and military generals, governments memorialize their leaders through portraits and ornate displays of their likeness, families preserve memories through family photo albums. Photographs are an integral element of this visual society and its effort to preserve its memories. "The Image as Memorial: Personal Photographs in Cultural Memory" by Marita Sturken discusses the impact of photographs on public memory, specifically in personal, cultural, and historical memory. Sturken constructs her persuasive argument through literary devices such as allusions, repetition, and diction that appeal to ethos, logos, and pathos, respectively. Ethos, an ethical appeal or an attempt by an author to make herself appear to be a dependable or credible source, is apparent throughout "The Image as Memorial: Personal Photographs in Cultural Memory.” This use of ethos is especially noticeable through her use of allusions. Sturken alludes to the French literary theorist and philosopher Roland Barthes, “earlier societies managed so that memory…was eternal…this was the Monument. But by making the (mortal) Photograph…modern society has renounced the Monument” (180), to emphasize her point that “the contemporary photograph has not replaced the monument so much as it is demanded in its presence” (Sturken180). This reference strengthens Sturkens’ credibility in her piece, as it builds upon famous thinkers’ ideas as well as addresses possible doubts to the argument that photographs can act as living memorials. In addition to her allusions to Barthes, Sturken also alludes to familiar images and phenomena such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the AIDS blanket, and the photos of missing children on milk cartons in her appeal to ethos. These allusions work to enrich her argument that images have the ability to have personal, historical, and cultural meaning. The appliance of outside sources to her argument, “the low, black walls of the memorial, sunken into the landscape (the Vietnam Veterans Memorial)…inspire contemplation” (181), illustrates Sturkens knowledge of the impact of photographs. The variety of examples demonstrate this as well, allowing readers multiple opportunities to understand and apply images’ influences in meaning to individuals or groups. However; these references not only provide readers with tangible examples of photographs transcending personal, historical, or social significance, but also divide her essay into separate sections, allowing readers a break from the logic-ridden text. Sturken’s use of logos in the chapter, although it is a separate entity, also contributes to her ethos. As her argument is defended with logical appeals, her credibility is supported as her knowledge of the subject is explored. Logos is first demonstrated in the introduction paragraphs, as definitions are heavily used in order to outline key terms such as cultural, historical, or personal memory, “the photograph of personal value is a talisman, in which the past is often perceived to reside so that it can be re-experienced” (178). These definitions’ diction also aid her logic. “Talisman,” in the quoted statement normally connotes a supernatural object of power, such as an amulet. But in this example, it is used to describe an object that can harbor or recover the past in order to emphasize a photograph’s power over human emotions. This unusual use of “talisman” appears again later in the chapter when referring to the objects left at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, “hence, talismans regarding the Gulf War, the abortion debate, and the gay rights movement have been left there as a form of speech” (181). This repetition is continuously used in order to emphasize ideas as well as provide