Memory Building (2020)

Time changes everything. That cliché became painfully relevant for me after my parents died within a few months of each other, forever changing my family structure. The unconditional love I received from them throughout my life was now gone. I was left with only their physical possessions and my memories of our lives together. Being a photographer, I gravitated towards one group of items they left behind — a well-organized archive of family photos, the ultimate tangible manifestation of memories.

In this series, I digitally projected those vernacular family photographs onto the surfaces of my childhood home and re-photographed the scene. By juxtaposing the photos from the past onto the present-day walls, I unearthed 60 years of engrained memories and tried to capture my family’s vanishing history that once permeated this house.

My parents’ California home exemplifies the post-war ranch homes built in newly created neighborhoods across the United States. They decorated their home in the Early American style popular at the time. (Some now refer to it as Coloniawful.) They lived in this house from the day they were married until their deaths—from their 20s to their 80s—and much of the original furniture they bought remained in the house throughout their lives.

While the home and my parents’ stability provided a solid foundation for my upbringing, it also provided a trustworthy touchstone for them in their final years as dementia and memory loss robbed them of so much. Constructing the projected tableaus made the memories more substantive for me, provided solace my grieving and created a pictorial legacy for my son. With so many formative experiences rooted and intertwined within this building, saying goodbye to it was also saying goodbye to my parents. Even as the rooms were literally whitewashed in preparation for new owners, my memories continued to resonate within the walls.

"By casting projections of her family members onto the walls of her childhood home, Annette LeMay Burke evokes the poignancy of memory. In 'Rumpus Room,' a group who once gathered together welcomes the viewer, cutting through the linearity of time."
– Jacqui Palumbo, Writer + Producer @ CNN Style