The Memories That Make Us Cry 

Left: “I thought of the death of my great-grandmother. When we went to her funeral I cried a lot.”  Right: “I thought about the death of my father and experiened the pain I felt two months ago.”

Georges Pacheco

What would you do if a stranger stopped you on the street and asked you to come into a studio and cry while he photographed you?

Georges Pacheco asked this question of people on two separate occasions in 2005 and 2006 at the Centro Português de Fotografia in Portugal. Enough people said yes to create the series “La memoire des larmes.”

It was time-consuming to try and find people, but that wasn’t the only hurdle. “It was also never certain that they would be able to cry,” Pacheco wrote via email.

Pacheco studied experimental perception psychology and art psychology before deciding to pursue a career in photography. In this project, he wanted to “determine what a person will find in his memory and personal history to make themselves cry,” he wrote. “Whether the person is 8 or 70, what is the most critical moment in that person’s life and will it be chosen to achieve this emotion?”

Left: “I tried to remember myself 10 years ago, where I was and what I was thinking I would become today.” Right: “I thought about everything that was sad about being angry with my children and the fact that I maybe failed my marriage.”

Georges Pacheco

Left: “I thought about my past. I had a fucked up childhood: My father put me in the street when I was small and I lived with drug addicts and I tried to kill myself.” Right: “I thought of my niece Judith who I raised. She died when she was 48. She developed cancer that took over her body. I saw it spread and her death greatly affected me. Even now I can’t talk about it.”

Georges Pacheco

Left: “I became nostalgic thinking about four years ago when my parents were in a car accident. My father died and my mother was in a coma for two months. Even today she hasn’t completely recovered.” Right: “The reason for my tears was to ask my father, who passed away, for forgiveness for my being absent.”

Georges Pacheco

Once the subject was in the studio, Pacheco asked them to pull from any memories that would trigger a sincere emotional response. He then excused himself from the studio, leaving his subjects alone to determine when to snap the photograph, re-entering only when he noticed the flash firing. He then asked them questions about the experience.

Pacheco also noted that many of the subjects didn’t necessarily think of sad events during their sessions.

“People in the series have all expressed to me that the period in which they were in the studio with themselves was a very interesting time, an almost therapeutic experience,” he wrote. “Releasing the emotion and reliving key moments of their past and putting it into words was cathartic.”

Left: “I thought about how I will never know where I live and where I come from and it’s something that has caused me problems in my life.” Right: “What made me cry was realizing that I wanted to write to a person I hadn’t seen in a long time and in fact that person was me. I have forgotten myself.”

Georges Pacheco

Left: “It’s precisely memory: memory of what was good and is now lifeless. It’s to have thought that it was beneficial and now I can see that it was mundane, normal, banal. And since then, it’s over.” Right: “What made me cry was to go back in time when I was 6 when I lost my sister. But it wasn’t only this loss I dealt with over time. Later I would lose my grandmother and then my mother. It was when I lost my mother that I hit rock bottom. I think the greatest pain is losing your mother.”

Georges Pacheco