I have been sorting and moving digital photographs around from an old computer to a new one. From my seat in front of ‘machine with a mind of its own’ I can also view a pile of shoe boxes filled with real photographs, ranging in tones from sepia to brilliant colour and spanning decades of the life and adventure of my family.
Too many, too many!
My father took photos. Hundreds of them. On holidays, all us children got used to him, holding mysterious boxes under chins, behind heads, then backing away, fiddling with dials and knobs, turning rings on the front of the camera until he was satisfied all was correct, and don’t forget to wind on the film. Scenery was fine it didn’t tend to move too quickly - us kids were well trained, but my mother was impatient and would complain of the cold, complain of the. . . Well you oldies will understand, photography in the 40s and early 50s could be long winded! Maybe the youngsters will not be able to imagine this, snapping is so instant these days.
We were given little Brownie 127s, when quite young, with which to take photos of our own, but, of the three of us, I was the only one who was pushing all the time to do more with the camera, to upgrade, to learn about photography. Not for me the holiday snaps - everything was fair game as it had been, I discovered as I grew older, for my father. Experiments that didn't always work, indoors and out. Strange bits of people, animals and plants were more exciting than portraits. My mother’s constant complaint, about both of us, was the lack of family portraits, of straight forward records of people..
I was left some money when my grandmother died and I treated myself to my first ‘grown up’ camera. It was not as cool as my father’s but infinitely better than any of my friends had. With this I could push further.
With this I soon became dissatisfied, I wanted a ‘proper camera’.
I struck a bargain with my father.
I had a poor record, at school, of behaviour attitude and work ethics!! I hated school, could you guess. Each end of term report would have, Poor or Fair next to - Application, Politeness, Good Conduct and Punctuality. This constant proof of my attitude distressed my hard working parents. The bargain struck was three consecutive end of terms reports with Very Good next to those attributes.This bargain was struck while my friend from forever was present, she was to stand as the witness.I don’t think my father considered I could do this, his money was safe (SLR were very expensive then)
An impossible task?
How much did I want an SLR camera?
I wanted one very badly. It took me two years to pull those marks up and gain my three consecutive end of term reports, in fact I even managed a couple of excellents:) also a couple of years later I became a prefect - now that was an unexpected result of desiring a camera:)
So exciting to possess that camera.
Over the years, after I was working and traveling, I changed my camera at regular intervals, bought lenses(macro was my favourite), and attended camera clubs, photo workshops, entered competitions even won a couple and generally enjoyed myself. When I took myself off to University in my middle age I took an extra course in darkroom work and fell in love with that mysterious process of transformation.
Then I had an accident and out went my desire to pick up a camera. I have reported this strangeness before in talking about how I lost reading. The two went together - stress said the doctors, it will come back said the doctors. When? was all I wished to know. Reading took three years. The camera far longer. My father was no longer with us when this happened, so there is a gap in the family pictorial record. A gap of five years. It is still an uncertain beast but I have managed to change to digital (reluctantly) I had to abandon the lenses, due to wrists not working well, I have adapted to this new form. The only trouble is I now have a computer full of photos, as well as those shoe boxes!
This passion for camera work, I had always assumed, began with my father. No-one else in the family ever went beyond holiday snaps.
Among all the stash of family history I had inherited there were one of two really old photos including a couple of glass plates, which I had assumed were the products of ancestors attending photograph studios. Of course, as is the way, there is no identification on them:( However, I have found another connection in my life through the ages - when the 1911 census was released, to my surprise, I found my father’s mother was down, under employment, as a photographer.
How come that was never known? She lived with us for 9 years when I was a child, all the time I was developing my passion for the visual, why was nothing ever said? I had heard my father claim his grandmother had mostly brought him up and now I know why, granny was a working woman. Why had I never thought to ask why? Why did no comment when I showed interest in cameras?
Truly, families can be infuriating when it comes to following generations.
I don’t know enough, yet, to know if that term meant she actually took photographs, or only assisted. Don’t know if those old plates were hers, or not. However, there is a connection through three generations, from the fairly early beginnings of photography, to the digital age. Over a hundred years of family experimentation.
I do like connections.