My Father’s Slides

In Film, Memory-keeping

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 mother and her sister
my sister, our dog, and me

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. 

my husband and me, shortly after we were married
a family reunion (look at the coffee urn!)

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. 

my mother and sister, above the clouds
a rain storm in Spokane, where I grew up

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. 

a double, maybe a triple exposure

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. 

Ed and my father

My father knew how to document his life, all the tiny details, the beauty and the pain. 

my mother and me after a day on the beach clam digging

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. 

my parents, all dressed up

Today it is a gift to have them safely tucked away on a hard drive for they are a rare gift indeed. 

xo, Cathy

8 Comments

  1. Love this so much! I have family slides too, and they make my heart ache for those long ago days. Beautiful post. 💕

  2. I’m a photographer too; I discovered your blog via Donna Hopkins and her blog “coming to my senses”. I’m struck by how many of us gained our love of photography through our fathers.

  3. What incredible images!! The self portraits are so perfect especially that one of them at the camp fire.
    What a gift

  4. Cathy, these are just great🍿! My dad also took a lot of movies and I loved watching them We have many on DVD, but Instill have so many to do. I get lost in the,, so it takes me. Long time. Do you convert these yourself or use a servicw?

    Either way , they are a treasure and this article is too. It’s so evocative and brought me many good memories of my own!

    Carol

  5. Oh Cathy what a wonderful and tender post. I can feel the flavor of memory and nostalgia from your words and the images. Thank you. Nina

  6. I can’t even tell you how much I love this Cathy! Most of my early childhood is on slide film, and even though I haven’t seen most of them, just knowing those photos exist mean the world to me. Thank you for sharing these images! I love the self-portraits!

  7. Oh wow! I keep coming back to these images.
    They are incredible; I feel I could easily step back in time.

    I also love your dad’s secret selfies!

  8. Just stumbled across this while reading the latest post. Loved this and your photos. So many great memories captured.

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