A visual parallel to the epistolarium

A visual parallel to the epistolarium

This photograph shows the current contents of My Photos on my iPad, as of yesterday’s date.The word ‘current’ is used to emphasise that the contents have been different before this, and doubtless will be different again after it. The ontological character of the contents is both unitary because all are in an electronic format and also diverse – they include photographs I have taken, photographs sent to me, photographs downloaded from websites, screenshots and more; and they show people, animals, places, plants and documents. Many thousands of similar kinds of items have at different times crowded the memory of my iPad, and periodically I go through them to transfer some to more permanent homes on my laptop, others to the Bin. As well as diversity, what it contains is therefore variable and periodically re-shaped.

When I originated and published on the idea of the epistolarium, it was to encapsulate and analyse very similar characteristics. In a conceptual sense, an epistolarium concerns letters and refers to what remains, those that are extant and collected together in some location or another; it also refers to all the letters by someone that they ever wrote; and it can expansively additionally refer to all the letters sent to the letter-writer, many of which will have occasioned their own letters. The parallels between this, the remaining traces in letter-writing terms, and the remaining traces of the visual record that are to be found in My Photos, will be clear. Look, see. It is in this sense that photograph albums and postcard albums, and also the contents of both My Pictures on laptops and My Photos on tablets and smartphones, could be thought about, along with what kind of record they inscribe or otherwise represent.

Last updated:  29 January 2021


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