I was chosen by my family, perhaps because I’m an “artist”, to visit my mom and go through the piles of old photographs. Everyone wants the photographs “scanned” and put up on a Flickr account where they will be archived for eternity. I try to point out my own understanding of science is that one good solar flare could wipe them out. That or a nuclear attack, besides killing everyone, will also wipe out every computer in the fall out zone.
This does not matter to the relatives, and so I spend several days in my step father’s basement office using their scanner. My mom and step dad purchased this scanner years ago, but have never quite seemed to have figured out how to use it.
I finally emerged from the depths with a stick full of black and white and sepia images. The images need work. They are in a sad condition. I am told it is now trendy to purchase old photographs “especially if they are of dead people” and frame them and put them up on your walls. I object that everyone in these old photographs are dead. I am then educated that what is “in” is actually photographs of dead people. Preferably dressed and pretending to be alive. These photographs, well known as “death portraits” were popular in Victorian times. Hey, forgot to take your photograph while you were alive, but with embalming we still have time! While I am as fond of the show “Oddities” as anyone else, I hope that my relatives were camera happy only before someone died.
As I am slowly working through the photographs, noticing a chin here or a nose that I recognize in my own children or my brothers, I have a sense that truly old photographs were more timeless. The photographs from my childhood are mostly snapped with a poor quality Kodak, and I am forever rendered fuzzy. The few color photographs in the pile from the 70’s and 80’s show a horrible fading to a dreadful mustard color. There is not much I can do with my limited Photoshop skills to save them.
But the truly older photographs have held up well. They have been preserved in boxes and albums. The only recent damage was from my mother putting them in a photo album with sticky paper, which when the photograph was removed simply ripped off any information written on the back. It doesn’t really matter to me. If you were in the pile, you are a relative. Your name, we’ll take a guess, but that nose I would know anywhere, as my younger daughter has the same one.
I am horrible at Photoshop, but I’m the one chosen to do this. I will perhaps desperately look for a true professional for one or two photographs, not of perhaps anyone important, but because I like how the relatives are interacting. There is one photograph of a couple in love. You can tell by how they are looking at each other. Sadly glue has come through the paper, and so perhaps it can never be fixed. It doesn’t really matter, in a way it’s just enough to know that at some point, these two were in love. It makes me happy, as I feel a bit protective toward these people. I want them to have had love and goodness in their lives.
Still, I admit that when I came across an older relative in my Photoshop duties I could not help but perform a little plastic surgery. Perhaps her eye problem was caused by the same thyroid condition I now suffer from? I have treatment, but perhaps she did not. I can tell she is married, as she has a wedding ring, and also she wears an intertwined heart pin. Someone loves her. But I couldn’t resist simply taking a few years off with a swipe of the “blemish eraser”. Science might benefit from studying her face to determine if she suffered from some illness, but science is little likely to see this photograph. I keep a copy of both before and after.I like to think while I can’t afford plastic surgery in this life, perhaps when I am long gone and just who I am is forgotten, some relative will do the same for me.
- Scanner buying guide 2013: Find the right scanner for your needs (pcworld.com)
- Camera (parthamajumdar.org)