A traumatic memory is never a solid one. When the mind dissociates from the body, often the trauma is not experienced in the moment but as a later memory, working in similar ways to the latent image of photography. I see images in my head of the places where traumatic events occurred, but not the actual events as they happened. I look in on the situations instead of participating. This is a defense mechanism created to shield myself from the horror of what was happening to my child self.
Many survivors of sexual abuse remember their trauma in this way, as if they were a fly on the wall instead of experiencing it in the first person. This perspective, the “dissociative gaze,” is one of three different photographic perspectives used in the series In Memory of Trauma. This series documents spaces in and around my childhood home where my abuse took place. The other two views are the “experiential gaze,” the memory of my perspective as the abuse took place, and the “metaphorical gaze,” images that do not represent memories, instead standing for defense mechanisms, pain and violence felt long after the abuse ended. These are the memories and emotions that have surfaced as I reach further into my recovery process. By photographing them I leave behind a piece of that pain.