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September 21, 2014

Step One.


It's really not such a bad job. It's time-consuming, but interesting. The box on the left contains 2000 slides. By rough estimation I am about half-way through moving the slides from their cumbersome carousels and boxes to their new home in archival slide sheets. I'm waiting for more sheets to arrive.  The next step is to scan them. That's going to be the heavy-lifting part of this gig. I'm taking this in steps, which allows me to think abut future projects that will inevitably come from this work and how best to archive and organize these images.

Someone recently gave me unsolicited advice that I might benefit from a group dedicated to Adult Children of Hoarders. Other people mistake my interest in personal history as nostalgia. I'm not sure how to answer either of those comments politely. I grew up as an only child and ever since I could remember I've considered myself an artist. It really didn't matter what media I used. Everyone in my family knew this about me and I know for a fact that much of what has been saved, as burdensome as I sometimes feel it is, was saved because of my appreciation of art, found images, and interesting objects. as well as my mom being somewhat of an amateur archivist and history buff herself.

The slides are primarily from my parents, and my aunt and uncle's cache. They date back to the 1940's. More than likely they will end in the early 70's. I remember roughly when my mom's 35mm Argus camera stopped working. Early 1970's after a trip out west. I don't know why they didn't fix it. Cost, likely, and maybe it had been discontinued by then. By that point, I was the family documentarian. I received a new Instamatic or Poloroid camera about every other year at Christmas. Eventually I had my own 35mm, and eventually I sold, re-bought, and sold them again. I no longer have any of my vintage camera equipment. Sometimes that extra 8 ounces of whatever is too much of a burden. You streamline. I did that again earlier this summer. I ditched most of my negatives from high school and college. And with good reason.

It's interesting the sense of detachment I have in looking at these photos. I'm not editing just yet, but in the process of physically scanning them as I insert them into slide sheets, I've made observations: My mother was raised in an upper-middle class family that made out okay during the depression. They appreciated nice things and liked to entertain. They wore tailored clothes that look nice in photographs. Based on what I know, my grandmother sewed many of the outfits, including suits, and my mother hand-knitted several things I've seen reproduced in photos. My dad had a full head of hair. There are rural scenes so at some point in time, my kinfolk came from small towns in the south. They owned cameras and flash equipment and took photos of everyday life. My aunt and uncle travelled frequently for professional reasons, and for leisure. I have photos of Istanbul, Greece, Morocco, Hong Kong, China, Tokyo, Cuba, Norway, Denmark and possibly other destinations I have yet to uncover. There were relatives in Florida. There are photos of small towns in the northeast and New York. Sunsets, oceans and boats; waterfalls, mountains and food. I notice I'm slightly jealous when I see other children being hugged by any of my relatives, even though I was not born at the time of the photograph and do not know who these urchins are. This must be an only child defense mechanism. I also wonder who exactly took the photos and by process of elimination, I make educated guesses. Some of the images are nicely composed. Some experiment with light and shadow. Some experiment with portraiture. I'm impressed by several. Some miss the mark, cropping an element in an awkward place, still lifes, usually. The majority are correctly exposed and I'm here to tell you that Kodachrome is remarkably archival. Effing amazing saturation after 60 years. Not all are labeled, and as I approached this task, I did so with the implicit understanding that I was not going to try to ID everything. Some slides are individually labeled, some have detailed liner notes corresponding to the carousel slot, and some carousels have notes, like

1950
Cuba
Miami
Palm Beach

hastily written on a scrap of paper and tucked inside the box.

I found a snow scene in the above box. A mountain with snow. I Googled "snow mountain Cuba" to make sure there was not some freak snowstorm in Cuba in 1950. There wasn't. There was a Great Appalachian Snowstorm in 1950. This would make more sense, but it was not documented as such.  After that I disregarded the notes. Truth in photography. Hah.

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