Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Reader 1

Adam Davis

Reader 2

Tia Blassingame

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© 2016 Erica M. Rawles


What happens to the memories that are left behind in photographs when the person who’s memories they are passes away? After the passing of both my mother and my grandmother, I began to notice the fleeting significance of photographs. I spent time going through boxes of pictures they had saved and every so often I would come across an old photo of someone or something that no one in my family could find a meaning behind or attach a significance to. This paper reveals how the meaning and importance of photographs shift over time from the perspective of the photographer to that of the preserver.

I discuss the history of photography and its evolution from a purely scientific method of recording to fine art. I also discuss the psychology behind taking a photograph, looking at the art historical and philosophical writings of Susan Sontag and John Berger to discover how photography relates to memory, nostalgia, mortality, and the presence of the absent. Putting my own work in a historical context, I examine the works of contemporary artists dealing with similar themes of photography, physical space, and memory, such as Carmen Argote, Manal Al Dowayan, Christian Boltanski, and Doris Salcedo.

For my senior project, I contemplate the mystery behind my mom's decision to photograph unsuspected places. I explore the passage of time and the vulnerability of memories as they relate to photography. Through an installation of hanging panels of photographs printed on sheer fabric, my piece works to explore these two main themes: the preservation of memory and the space that grief fills.


Submitted to Claremont McKenna College and Scripps College in partial fulfillment of the degree of Bachelor of Art.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.