Associations are revealing. This morning, as I was drinking a cup of horrid office coffee, my brain leapt from the specific brand and flavor of coffee my mom drank when I was growing up to a seemingly unrelated bit of biographical information about a photographer I’d researched while working on a blog post on his efforts to Save the Whales. The photographer is Louie Psihoyos, the film director of The Cove, the Oscar Award-winning feature documentary that uncovers the horrifying mass slaughter of dolphins. Psihoyos is from the Midwest, as is my mom (he was born in Iowa, my mom in Minnesota), and his immigrant parent came from the Peloponnesus, the same region of Greece my dad grew up in and where both of my parents now live. That wasn’t the association I made this morning, though. Instead, I was recalling that I myself had recently taken a photograph of my coffeemaker and a bag of hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee, while photographing some other food in my kitchen, and that I always associate hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee with my mom. From there, I remembered I’d recently read about a photographer who’d photographed people with their possessions. At first I didn’t even remember that the photographer was Psihoyos. As I started to write the blog post about how I associate coffee with my mom, I kept thinking about the significance of Psihoyos photographing people with their possessions and what the objects we’re associated with impart about our identity.
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