Putting together an archive of photos of places that are less represented around Bahrain will have its optimal value by way of contextualizing. Walking around taking photos of the older neighborhoods, pre-colonial architecture, and other various details, it is obvious that there are layers and layers of significant personal and communal stories along the streets. Relevant in ways of reflecting community lifestyles, individual stories of families, friends, or even – something quite popular in Bahrain – the supernatural, taking us to various forms of folklore, mythology, songs and then deeper away into other tangible and intangible areas culture.
But the context being referred to here is not necessarily in the details that surround the subject of the image, but something that which can be extracted from the memories of the inhabitants of these very neighborhoods.
Oral recollections of events and eras are invaluable. Putting together an image, whether mental or physical, based on the voices of those who experienced it holds a lot of significance. The subjectivity of memory that is a very interesting part of what has popularly deemed it ‘imperfect’; it is in fact an important element just as well. Ways of remembering, cannot be much different from ways of seeing, there is a subjective truth to it that is no less important and ‘real’ than any other form or truth.
According to Paul Thompson, British oral historian, oral testimonies have largely been ignored. Attributed to the point that memory is fallible, it has often been left out of the equation of creating, visualizing and keeping in tact, the fabrics of society. But Thompson notes, that by the 19th century, historians realized that history is recorded by those who have more political power. That leaves out many minorities, women, and the working class, making official documentation in fact just as, if not even more, fallible.
for more on oral history in places of both textual and oral tradition read: Oral History and the Documentation of Historic Sites: Recording Sense of Place by Benjamin Marcus, Architectural Conservator