A Photographer's Coda

On The Nature Of A Photograph

The cross eyed kid, second from left in front, is my Dad. Best guess is, he and his identically dressed twin were 7. Their birthday was in December of 1914. This photograph was planned. Everybody is dressed in their best. My Grandmother, holding the baby, made their clothes. It was certainly made by a working photographer who understood exposure and posing. He placed them in open shade with soft, even light. No hard edged shadows or “raccoon eyes”.

The print is a postcard size, silver gelatin contact print, mounted to rigid fiberboard. Likely made with Kodak 122 film and a then pricey ($50) Kodak No. 3A camera plus a tripod. I scanned the print today, 100+ years later. It’s held up pretty well. I doubt my redundant backup disk drives will age as well. My prints however, also on rigid mounts, will. This one connects me to them and all eight stories. Which for other folks, was my purpose the last dozen years.

Anyone who attended my Basic Photography Classes in Cary & Clayton heard me talk about the difference between a photograph and video. They are completely different experiences. Hang a flat screen monitor in your main room with you’re very favorite movie/video on loop and see how long you can stand it before it goes “power off”. Hang a well made photograph there, say a portrait and it’s going to stay there. For years

Still Pictures: On Photography and Memory” by Janet Malcolm was published posthumously last month. She died in 2021. My library has 10 copies in order and my reservation is 12th in line.

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