Patrick Heagney is an Atlanta-based professional photographer. He received his BFA in Photography from The Savannah College of Art and Design. His work has been featured in numerous publications including The Architectural Digest, Atlanta Magazine, Southern Accents, and Veranda.
In the last decade scientists have demonstrated that the act of remembering is, at its core, an act of creation and destruction.
When you recall a memory it isn’t like going through a file cabinet in your head and retrieving the memory you’re searching for. Instead, you are essentially telling yourself the story of what happened and like a game of telephone each time you recount that story to yourself the details change and it becomes a less accurate depiction of what actually happened. This new, less accurate depiction becomes the memory that you start with the next time you recall something. Each time you remember something from your past you get farther and farther from the truth.
Every time you remember something you are actually recreating it and each time it’s a brand new memory. The act of remembering is a literal act of creation, an act of imagination. You are always changing the memory, there is no way around it. You think you are remembering something from years ago when in fact you are re-imagining it in the light of today. There is no such thing as a true memory for all of time; all anyone has is the most recent recollection and the more you remember something the less true it is. The more it becomes about you. There really isn’t anything like a real memory.
As a result, when two people experience the same thing as soon as that experience is over it starts diverging in their minds at a synaptic level. Assuming that each one thought of this memory on a regular basis, if they compared recollections years later two similar but different stories would emerge.
This body of work is an artistic illustration of this concept.
The process used to create these images is an elaborated form of photographic multiple exposure. A subject is photographed against a black background. That original photo is then loaded onto a digital projector and projected back onto the subject, creating a live double exposure and a layering of depictions of one person. While this is happening they are photographed with a long exposure. Due to the length of the exposure the subject inevitably moves around during this process introducing the element of time. The resulting photo is the final portrait. In this way two different interpretations of the same person are recorded at once, along with the blurring element of time. By combining two different versions of the same person the viewer is given contradictory and overlapping renditions of the same subject. As a result they know less about the subject. Age, race, distinguishing features, even gender melt away, obscured by the overlap of information. These portraits give the viewer almost nothing in regard to the true identity of their subjects because when it comes to memory there is no such thing as certainty or truth.