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.
Art, Craft and Discovery
Easter Sunday 1957 – Brooklyn, Ohio
My Mom made this photograph with the family Kodak Hawkeye Brownie camera. They had the Flash Kit version. Indoors a couple of Easter’s later shows the sharp shadows from the flash bulb, behind me and my brothers.
Handheld because the camera had no tripod socket. It had a single shutter speed of about 1/30th of a second or Bulb aka Long, as long you held it open. The lens was a fixed focus meniscus. The manual said everything from 5ft to Infinity would be in focus, so selfies were mercifully, not possible. The Hawkeye aperture was also fixed at about f16. What she knew to do was get us outside in bright sun aka the “Sunny 16 Rule”. The film box explained it. Same with the flash attachment indoors.
Film size was 616 so most of the prints were simply contact prints. Fill out the envelope at the local drug store, keep the receipt part and drop it in the bin. They sent it out and a few day later, you picked up the prints and negatives. Sixty six years later, I scanned it, edited the now digital version in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop and made the version you’re seeing.
The six year old you see has been discovering the world ever since. The last dozen years, with photography. I’d write “with a camera” but that’s almost the least of it. And it became time to stop and reflect and write. It takes time to really see a thing
This Menu Category is going to be sort a working draft of what may become a book. It begins with Art, the Why. Craft is the How and enables Art. Discovery, that’s the journey. The teacher in me would like to share what I’ve found, before mine ends.