I’ve talked before (over at the This Week in Photography blog) about how much fun it can be to rescue old negatives/slides from the obscurity of some box in the basement and get them added into your digital photo archive. Most of what I’ve scanned so far have come from photos I’ve taken myself but recently (when my Mom moved to a new house) I came across a batch that date from the Mom&Dad era.
Although many of them are a lot of fun (and several have incredible self-embarassment value)…
…I know that most are primarily of interest only to immediate friends and family.
But one unique feature of this batch is that several of the original slides were severely degraded by water/mold/dirt/age. And the patterns that emerged from this slow decay have their own (at least in my opinion) unique beauty as well. The image at the top of this post is fascinating to me, and I particularly like looking at some of the close-up detail of where the colored emulsions have separated and migrated by the slow action of moisture and mold.
Some of the photos are nothing but damage at this point, others are more of an exercise in trying to decipher the subject matter.
And some feel almost intentional in the way they transition from relative clarity to some impressionistic bit of pseudo-randomness.
(It will be interesting to see if I’ll be apologizing to my mother more for posting such a damaged photo of her or for posting a photo where she’s wearing those ridiculous glasses…)
Maybe it’s the combination of age, damage and subject matter but I find that many of these images really evoke a strong sense of melancholy. These next two in particular are almost haunting to me – and in the back of my head I can hear the slow, lonely notes of the minimalist piano score that would accompany them.
I wish I was a skilled enough photographer to be able to capture this sort of thing intentionally.
For those of us who sometimes get caught up in the quest for razor-sharp, high megapixel, ultra-clean digital imagery, it’s all a nice reminder that there are just some things that can’t be quantified.
[Full-resolution versions of all of these scans (& a couple of others) are on flickr if you want to zoom into the details a bit more.]