Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Snapshot #2 - My Dad

Bill Williams
March 31, 1906 to July 4, 1984

Stephen Shore says in his book, The Nature of Photographs, "As an object, a photograph has its own life in the world. It can be saved in a shoebox or in a museum. It can be reproduced as information or as an advertisement. It can be bought and sold. It may be regarded as a utilitarian object or as a work of art."

I've never seen the actual photograph from this negative that I scanned today but I've seen this negative for as long as I can remember. It was in a box with other pictures....not a shoe box but maybe a dress box. I'm guessing that my Dad was about 3 years old when this was made. It is a very strange negative. The material is very heavy and stiff. Nothing like what we think of as a negative today. The size is about 5.5 inches by 3.75 inches and the image only takes up 1/2 of the space so it looks like another oval image of the same size could be on the other side. It doesn't look like this was made by a professional photographer, certainly not in a studio.

Was this the original negative or was it made at a later time. George Eastman House has some of Lewis Hine's negatives....all clumped in the 1906-1938 time frame. Some are glass plates and others are gelatin on nitrocellulose sheet film. If this is an original negative, it is coming up on 100 years old. It is deteriorating badly. The emulsion is silvered and on one side it is bronzing. The "shiny" side of the substrate is crazed with tiny cracks. Or was this a negative made in the 1930's from an old photograph. I don't really know. This photograph/negative has had a life of it's own in the world. When did it end up in the box in my Mother's hope chest?

I was always told that this was a photograph of my Father but even without being told I think I would recognize the sharp brow over the eyes and the set of the mouth. I look at it and I think I see traces of my Father in my sons and in their sons. But seeing it, I also see traces of my Father's whole life. Family images are amazing possessions to have to remember things that we have witnessed and things that we did not witness but are still in our consciousness.

1 comment:

Babs said...