Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A voyage round my parents

A monkey in a dress? No, me in one of my 1st photo shoots.

Recently I have set myself the project of scanning my late fathers old photographic slides.

Doing so feels a bit like doing a archaeological dig. You are looking at images probably not seen by anyone else for many years(The problem with slides is that they require considerable outlay in order to display them properly). You are never sure what treasures might be on the next slide.

Of course the hope is that you will find something historical significant such as a picture taken on a grassy knoll in Dallas in 1966, but alas the majority of the photo's consist of the family snap variety,

The only one that stands out is of Talbot house, the home of the Toc-H organisation in Poperinge, Belgium, taken in 1965(One of the mystery's is that my dad only seemed to of taken one photo in Belgium. Obviously he was having too good a time ).

Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium, 1965

That doesn't mean that all the others are worthless, Every photo is significant to someone. Most of the photo's were taken before I was born (or even conceived), and document and record a period in my parent's life that I could not and did not share (My kids also believe that we as parents had no life before their existence). For that reason alone, it has been a fascinating voyage of discovery

But in undertaking this task has raised some interesting thoughts on photography in general.

The first is how photography has changed. It would be easy to complain that many of my fathers photo's are poorly exposed or not in focus, but unlike now, my dad did not have the luxury of auto-exposure or auto-focus. In fact for that reason alone, it is amazing how many of the photo's are in-focus and well exposed since he did not have the luxury of reviewing the photos.

It is also a pity that more of the photos did not show things like the town he was born or lived. But in those days each photo was a precious thing, since you were limited to 24 or 36 per film, and each photo had to be developed at a not inconsiderable cost. There was not the luxury of taking speculative shots just to see how they looked. So photo's were reserved for the things that really mattered such as family. While the digital revolution has meant reduced the cost of photography to almost nothing, it has in some ways also reduced the value. Instead of crafting the photo's we now employ a scatter gun approach, happy in the knowledge that we can delete the ones we don't like later.  In some ways, the old restrictions mean that those old photos will always be more valuable, if for no other reason, their rarity.

The final lesson is legacy. Since these are now one of the few permanent records of my parents existence, they are very precious to me. However as a child, they meant very little, and for many years sat in old boxes, unseen and un-cared for (I guess the modern equivalent is the digital photo frame, that never gets turned on ). Unfortunately the slides condition pays homage to that fact, with many that are scratched or dirty despite my best efforts to clean them and processing in Photoshop.

But at least they are a permanent reminder, only requiring me to awaken my interest in them as I became more involved in studying my family history. I do wonder sometimes whether I will  leave my children a similar legacy.

Already I have a far greater number of photos to share with them than my father could ever of dreamed of, but the majority are stored on disk drives in digital format. Will these  still be accessible when my children reach the age when they start asking the same questions? I know I should really print them off, but the low cost of digital photos now works against us. It would be impossible to print them all, but then how do I choose which ones are significant and should be recorded in a more permanent way?

Like my fathers photo's, those that I consider important today, may not be the ones my kids wish to see in later years. It is a dilemma that many of us face, but unfortunately one we will probably leave to our children to resolve. As I found with my father, by the time I was ready to discuss these issues, it was already be too late.

No comments:

Post a Comment