“Picture Book” (The Kinks)

Key trax on The Village Green Preservation Society (1968), and one of a handful considering questions of saving and archiving the evanescent past. The trax’s impact has been muted in recent years because of its frequent, celebratory use in Hewlett Packard ads. What can still be heard, however, remains bracing: the photograph is designed to “prove” to “poppa” in his old age that he and “momma” “loved each other a long ago.” And Ray Davies is even clearer in the album’s last trax, “People Taking Pictures of Each Other,” where amateur photo fans also seek “to prove that they really existed” and “that they mattered to someone.” None of the above, of course, can be proven by snapshots of family and friends, and that’s part of Davies’ point: the personal photo involves a kind of nostalgia for nostalgia. Added to the archive as a “picture book,” however, such artifacts are mute until questioned and turned into “facts” (see Ricoeur’s History, Memory, Forgetting). What, eventually, will the “picture book” prove?  We can’t yet imagine all the possible questions, but Davies suggests a serious psychological reversal: your incessant shutterbugging is itself the shadow of a doubt.

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