For some years now there has been an old photograph curled up in a tight roll sat in the bottom of the box where I keep family photographs. The last time I rolled it open was several years ago. It is in a perilous state, cracked, dried and brittle. I know that I will be able to open it just a few more times before it disintegrates into shards of bromide paper, and then it will be lost for ever. I need to scan it, to preserve it, but I know that the very act of scanning it will destroy the original for ever. For ages I have been trying to work up the courage to make a start on the process, and this morning I took a deep breath, stretched it out and started the scanning and restoration process. The print was on tenterhooks - and so was I.
This is the first scan. You can see that it is already in a poor state. The restoration process should keep me occupied most of the day. But what you can see already is my fathers' family in 1917. Let me introduce them. From the left you have my Auntie Annie, my grandfather Enoch, my grandmother Harriet, my Uncle John, my father dressed in his sailor suit, and finally my Auntie Miriam. As you can see both my grandfather and my Uncle John were in uniform : this is 1917 at the height of the Great War. If you look very carefully you can detect a slightly different background at the part of the photograph where my grandfather was standing. This was because he wasn't actually there when the photograph was taken : he will have been far off in Flanders digging tunnels. It was a standard procedure to "burn" in images of absent soldiers in order to produce family groups even though, in reality, the family has been split open by the war.
Six members of the family, frozen in time in 1917. Over the next six Fridays I will try and tell the stories of each one of them : to unfreeze the image and let it move forward. We will start next Friday with Auntie Annie.