How do you tell a story that began before you were born?
As visual storytellers, we look for new ways to tell a story, ways that can make the viewer look at the world—and perceive time—differently. We look for things that make you take a second glance. For photographer Jackson Patterson, this means combining two separate images to create a narrative. While projects like Dear Photograph have popularized the practice of combining old photos with new, Patterson’s work takes the trope a new level with technique and a clear voice. In the photo series, Recollected Memories, Patterson explores themes of family, land, and western migration.
Patterson says the idea came to him during “a family reunion at the ranch in Montana where my grandmother grew up. There was an old barn that her father, a ranch hand, was commissioned to build on the ranch. That barn was later moved about 60 miles away onto another ranch. All that is left at the original homestead is three walls of the house where she grew up with her four brothers.”
His first image in the series, Red Barn was inspired by this relocated old family barn. Patterson says “the background image is on the original homestead and the image of the barn is from its current location.” He says that making this image “brought up stories of what it was like to live on that ranch, the choices that were made, living off the land, and eventually migrating away from the ranch. That is really only scratching the surface, but nonetheless it led me to search through the old family albums. The ones that usually we dread going through. The way the story came through successfully in that first image caused me to search for more connections visually and led to a lot of the other images.” In the final product, some of the layered images are old photographs, some are new.
Patterson describes the images in Recollected Memories as “photomontage,” where one old photograph is digitally blended into a new one. This is not the first that he has worked with the pairing of multiple images. Patterson says, “I used to do traditional diptych imagery but with the first Recollected Memories image it made sense to layer the images.” This creates a new dimension of meaning, where we can see the progression of time in one image.
Although much of the inspiration for the project came from personal narratives, Patterson says that “I have found that these are not only my family’s stories, but are stories that exist throughout the west and beyond. They are stories of perseverance, pride, struggle, life and death. They are human stories intertwined in a majestic landscape.” Patterson’s work transports us directly into those narratives. The past blends with the future and the viewer is able to transcend time and space.
View more of Recollected Memories on Jackson Patterson’s website.