Alex Stephenson Your Memory is being controlled by your home-video editing

Professionally, I shoot and edit videos. Sometimes these videos are commercials, sometimes they’re music videos, and sometimes they’re weddings. I find the last one the most enjoyable, but also the most problematic.

When somebody wants their wedding documented, obviously it is for posterity reasons. They want to be able to rewatch the best moment of their life over and over again, or at least until the less technologically inclined member of the couple accidentally puts the .mov file in the trash. Wedding photographers are there for the same reasons: these pictures will be proof that this union happened, and they will be framed in the hallway accordingly. But the idea of shooting a shitload of photographs and then touching them up in Photoshop doesn’t really alter a memory. Video, however, does.

When I cut together a wedding video, I’m going through the hours of footage I shot on the day of, and compiling them together to some shitty Jann Arden song from the 1990s. This video will make the couple very happy, and watching it will probably always make them happy (unless they break up, I suppose). But what this video will do is alter their memories of their wedding day.

When one flips through a photo album, they are looking through a collection of quick flashes of memories. You’re not getting a full memory; unless there’s some sort of extensive InstaGram-type filter thrown over the image, it won’t really alter anything. You’ll never see the image moving, so it will always be a static addition to the memory you already have. With an edited video however, you are taking moving images and reordering them in a way that suits the edit more than anything else. Which seems troubling in the long term.

The married couples tend to watch these videos a number of times when they get them… I assume the bride pretty much always cries, because that seems to be how most brides react to their wedding. (This is in no way a comment on my work, by the way – I realize that even if I used star wipes every thirty seconds and soundtracked the video with Milli Vanilli, the couple would still be extremely happy with the finished product.) They probably like this video so much that they have an encyclopedic knowledge of it, not unlike how I remember every framing and editing choice in The Graduate. And over enough time, the video may become the only real memory they have of the wedding. As time passes, our memories fade, but if the couple is able to hold onto this video, they’ll always have it. Should the couple choose to rewatch it every few anniversaries, it will be the only definitive (non-static) record of the day, and the images in it will eventually replace almost all of the ones they have in their own head. The repetition will replace the memories they only had one chance to see.

Knowing this makes me work a lot harder on these videos; I tend to put the most effort into wedding videos because I know how important they are to the couple. But these videos show a bigger issue: as we start to document everything with our video DSLRs and our iPhone cameras, and will only continue to as these things get easier to do, all of our memories will eventually be replaced by factual documentations of events. Wedding videos are only going to get more popular; shit, I made a Bah Mitzvah video a couple weeks ago. I’ll be shooting a friend’s concert soon, and once my friends start to have kids I guarantee the more sentimental ones will hit me up to shoot Emily Jr.’s first birthday. This will give us a more factual representation of these things; my parents probably barely remember my 1st birthday at this point, and even if they do there’s nothing to prove their memories wrong. We’re a culture of fact-checkers now, and while it might be a more truthful way to look at things, it’s probably less human.

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