Poem: “Photographs”

Photographs hold painful
Memories of yesterdays
Pieces of history
Captured in snapshots

Time’s Petri dish
Evoking whatnots
and What-ifs

Ivan Chew
18 Apr 2004

This poem was first posted at the Seeds_o_Light poetry group I started in 2004. The group is inactive now, though at the start there were members giving comments and suggestions. This was what I posted in response to comments from members about the poem.

The poem came about when I was going over some old photos. A few of them showed me in really geeky & unflattering poses. That was the painful part. More of a “Gee, how embarrassing” kind of pain rather than something tragic or “dirty”. The word “painful memories” came
to mind so I worked on it further. “Embarrassing memories” just lacks the punch, don’t you think?

Some other photos made me think of the “then & now”. E.g. how would “now” be different if I had not met that person; wondering
where so-and-so is right now; wondering what that guy next to me was thinking of when the picture was taken.

The phrase “Time’s Petri dish” tries to convey this idea of people peering into photographic pieces of their past (alliteration
intended lol), like how a scientist would peer down a microscope to study a bacteria culture in a Petri dish.

1983. First colour TV in a flat at Toa Payoh. Contributed by Koy Wan Beng. HRS4 i-remember-sg (HRS4_0300#1)
Originally uploaded by SNAP: Singapore National Album of Pictures