While we may not always realize it, we are constantly surrounded by images. Whether it’s visuals conveying an immediate message through an advertisement, the endless stream of photos on our Instagram feed, or the impulse to document every moment during a concert or visit to a museum, it’s becoming harder and harder to separate photography from reality. This synergy is exactly what inspired photographer Jacob Burge to create his series Recall, a visual commentary on what it feels like to constantly process our world’s image oversaturation.
The idea came to Burge while he was living in Japan. After living in the country for five years, he sat down to “recall” his adventures and memories, but found himself struggling to remember the vast majority of his life in the region. It seemed the years had flown by, and many of the moments depicted in his images only existed as photographs, and not as definitive memories in his own mind. “Photos were a way to piece together my time there,” Burge explains. “But alongside these images, there was a feeling of being overwhelmed with all the information available to us, and how it was affecting my capacity to recall.”
Using the photographs he took throughout his five years in Japan, Burge started piecing together vibrant representations of his fractured recollections. At first, the images appear to be highly contrasted shots of mundane moments, but on closer inspection, we see that many of Burge’s images are actually manipulated glitches. Something is always just out of place, mirroring the short circuiting of the photographer’s own memories of past events and fleeting moments.
“It’s impossible to remember everything,” Burge explains. “But nowadays, our internal hard drive is overloaded with daily information, where only a fraction gets stored and replayed. Naturally, over time, our once-clear and vivid thoughts will end up confused and faded. Our reliance on technology is helping speed up this process by slowly dissolving our need and ability to recall things.” And so, the glitches in Burge’s images not only represent his own fractured memories; they are also a commentary on the parallels between humans and the machines that we rely on.
“Computers are quietly taking over as our main source of memory back-up, enabling us to store, display and edit our version of reality,” says Burge. “In our new age of technology and information, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between what’s real and fake.” In short, our reliance on technology might be useful, but it isn’t necessarily healthy. “The photo of the guy passed out at his computer screen says it all, I think,” he reflects.
At the end of the day, Burge hopes the saturated images draw viewers in, so that they assess each photo until they register that what they’re seeing isn’t quite right. He can only hope that this reflection will at least push his audience to be aware of this universal shift in our ability to hold memories. “I’d like my audience to try and remember what they have seen in the past 24 hours,” the photographer urges. “We are in need of reconnecting, not with our internet providers, but ourselves.”