I don’t think that digital photography is romantic yet. It’s not sympathetic the way that film is. Matthew Modine
One of my earliest memories as a child is standing in the spotlight of my father’s slide projector and singing Elvis Presley songs. The house would be completely dark and my mother and older sister would be watching, while my father loaded up the projector with slides. I am sure my sister was rolling her eyes, but I didn’t care. Slide night was magical.
My father was the photographer of the family. Documenting our lives in Kodachrome and Kodak film. I was that child that never went to Disney Land for vacation, but hit every fishable lake in Washington, Idaho and Montana. You see my father was a fisherman and a hunter. He loved the beauty of the outdoors and pulled over for sunsets and open fields full of elk or deer, and his camera was almost always by his side.
When my father died, a few years after my mother, my sister and I cleaned out their house; she took the photographs and I took the slides. Those boxes of slides sat in my office closet for several years, until finally my husband bought me a side viewer and an uploader and I became brave enough to look at them.
You see looking at slides was something we did often when I went to visit my folks, and after my father developed Alzheimer’s, I would pull the projector and screen out during most of my visits. I would close all the curtains and he would sit in his chair and remember, reliving the stories behind the photo which filled the screen. He did not recognize my three grown boys at this point, but could look at a mess of fish, all lined up lakeside and tell me where they were caught. He did not always recognize photos of my mother, but could tell me where his jeep was parked, on an old forest road in Idaho.
It was not until I finally really sat with the slides on my computer that I realized my father was possibly taking selfies back in the 50’s. Often on a hunting or fishing trip with one of his friends. He often captured the two of them outside their tent, or beside a clean mountain lake, These photos make me smile because the two of them often look a bit sheepish, and very happy with themselves.
My father knew how to document his life, all the tiny details, the beauty and the pain.
When I look at his slides I am drawn to their imperfection. The colors are often overstated or faded, the shadows and contrast are deep. Most of the negatives are marked up from years and years of handling.
Today it is a gift to have them safely tucked away on a hard drive for they are a rare gift indeed.