Tactile Memory | A 35mm Still Compilation Film by Amber Bardell


When I scanned my film, I didn’t clean it up. Allowing chemical marks and bits of lint to litter the frames added to the feeling of uncovering something from my past. The mood I really wanted to encapsulate in this tiny piece of video was in the line:

“it’s always felt like treasure for me”

I grew up in a family of creative people, which made it easy for us to excuse keeping hold of copious amounts of pointless trinkets. My Dad still had half of his motorbike festering in our garage for at least 15 years after the accident which made him stop riding. We were nothing short of hoarders, and although I’m growing out of those accumulating ways, my eyes still light up at the thought of rummaging through unwanted items. There’s something very satisfying and sustainable about bringing life to things which would have otherwise been discarded and that’s why my wardrobe is almost 90% second-hand.

Whenever my older sister was clearing out her room, she would present me with a pile or a box of things I could have if I wanted, before she threw them away or they got donated to a charity shop. I loved those moments and despite growing differing tastes, I still wear some of her old clothes. These things have more memories attached, as do those which have real stories behind them, sparking your imagination as you hold them in your hands or inhale their scent. That’s the tactility that I mention in the title, the thing that makes us so attached to objects.

I decided that the film would be a process for me to document some of these possessions and enable me to let go of a few, and appreciate the intensity of meaning for others. I originally had planned for this to be a photo-series, something like what Greta Gerwig’s character does in 20th Century Women, documenting each and every one of her possessions. But I soon realised I could bring more life to the stills and used sound as an outlet for something raw and expressive. I stuck to a tiny portable recorder for my narration rather than renting good equipment from my university’s stores because it reminded me of the sound in the stop frame animations I made growing up. I think that opening the film with the deep breath I had assumed I would cut out sets an intimate tone and places the piece. I then layered found audio to create basic soundscapes to associate with each object listed towards the end of the video, with the aim of capturing more atmosphere and evoking more powerful memories for myself. I hope there’s something about nostalgia which people can relate to when viewing this as it’s a common feeling, especially on the cusp of adulthood. That’s the beauty of film as a medium, I get to combine sound and stills which work together to make each element more powerful and engaging.

This is one of an increasing number of recent projects I’ve made that are much smaller than those that are taking over my life right now. It feels good to finish these bite-sized things and see the process come full circle as it motivates me to keep going with the more challenging things.

To read more about this idea and my process, head over to Focus Arts Mag to check out a partner article I wrote for them.

To see the film, head over to my Instagram.