One Photographer Gives You a Chance to Say What You Always Wished You’d Said
We all know the feeling.
There was something we wish we’d said to someone special. Now they’re gone and we can’t go back in time to tell them what we wanted them to know…what they needed to know.
Or, can we?
One photographer gives you a chance to say what you always wish you’d said to your loved ones. By channeling the spirit of old-school answering machines (anybody remember those hulking pieces of plastic and metal?), critically-acclaimed photographer Gillian Laub invites all of us to reconnect with the intimacy of the human voice. It seems so simple, yet it inspires complex reactions from people who participate in this incredible project.
How strong of a memory-trigger is your voice, or the voice of a loved one who’s long gone?
Here’s how Gillian Laub describes it:
As a child, there were few things as exciting, filling me with anticipation, as the moment I returned home, racing directly to the answering machine to find— a blinking red light signaling unheard voice messages. I would save my favorite messages to cassette tapes and listen to them over and over. The innocent excitement over the years has given way to a deep gratitude of re-hearing the immortalized voices of loved ones now gone.
That’s why she set out to recapture the intimacy of audio messages. And she’s inviting all of us to take part in her project, entitled “What’s Left?”
In her artist’s statement, Laub describes the why she values the lasting legacy of the human voice. She writes:
I cherish the antiquated, almost nostalgic intimacy of this technology. What speed and efficiency we’ve gained with texting and email, we’ve lost some warmth and humanity of the voice. These audio messages offer windows into stories full of emotion, humor, pleasure, and pain. You can hear the joy. You can feel the love.
And she’s right – hearing a loved one’s voice evokes emotions that can’t be conveyed in a text. There’s something more personal, more raw, about hearing an audio message.
In fact, I have one voicemail message saved from my late grandfather, Grandaddy Billy Barnes. His Southern accent is crystal-clear, and as slow flowing as molasses. Even a handwritten letter couldn’t capture his spirit – his voice carries clarity and posits permanency. Though he’s been gone for over two years now, I can still hear his character come through in a short, but cherished, voicemail. One day, I’ll play the message for my son, so he can connect with his great-grandfather.
In contrast to fleeting texts, audio messages stick around and reverberate in our minds, even many years after we’ve heard them. My only wish? I wish I had saved more of my grandfather’s messages. I wish I had told him that his humor and witty way with words will live on in my younger brother.
We all have things we wish we’d said. We all have messages we wished we’d saved.
This project gives you a unique chance to reconnect and reclaim this intimacy for yourself and for others. And as Gillian says so eloquently:
That’s why I’d like your photo and voice to be a part of this installation. I urge you take a few moments to leave a message and post a photo for someone you want to say something to, but don’t have the chance to anymore.
About the Author:
Gillian Laub (b.1975, Chappaqua, New York) is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in comparative literature before studying photography at the International Center of Photography, where her love of visual storytelling and family narratives began. Laub has been interviewed on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, Good Morning America, Times Talks and numerous others. Laub contributes to many publications including TIME and The New York Times Magazine. Her work is collected and exhibited internationally. You can follow her work and musings on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.