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Flashbulb Memories

Three photographers reflect on images that are infused with history.

Photographs are inherently tied to memory and the passage of time, but they take on a new dimension when a photographer turns the lens on his or her own life. These images reflect three artists’ journeys to understand how memory and home define them.

Photo by Glen Erler (glenerler.com)

CHILDHOOD ROMANCE

When they weren’t hanging around his aunt’s house, Glen Erler and his cousins were playing across the street in their backcountry Southern California neighborhood.“We would often have to jump or crawl under the fence to play baseball there—It was our kind of escape,” he says. Decades later, he climbed the same fence to take this photograph, which appears in his book, Family Tree . It all looked the same, including the warm light he so fondly remembered. “Now I just die for that light,” says Erler, who currently lives in London. “That’s where the romance of the memories comes through.”

Photo by Steven Turville (steventurville.com)

TRACING THE ROOTS

Just after finishing college, first-generation American Steven Turville visited his parents ’ home country, Guyana, for the first time—a chance for him to explore how that place had shaped his own narrative. “I think we’re all trying to realize or establish some sequence of events that pieces together our story,” he says. This photo, from his Rumors of Home series, depicts his grandmother’s bedroom in the house where his mother was raised. The Oakland-based photographer wanted to convey a sense of identity in the image while leaving space for the viewer to fill in invisible details and emotions.

Photo by Barbara Peacock (barbarapeacock.com)

HOMETOWN HISTORIAN

Growing up in a small town outside of Boston, Barbara Peacock envied her city friends and their access to an endless number of compelling visual subjects until she saw the potential in her own backyard. She began photographing community events and rituals and has continued the project for more than 30 years. This image appears in her book, Hometown . “I was really taken by the boy’s face—youthful, but thoughtful and reflective,” she says. “When you’re a kid, everything is slowed down, yet I was very cognizant of how fleeting life is. I wanted to capture the essence of daily life in this small town. It could be any town in the USA.”