Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The Salt-Encrusted Trawler Nets Of Time

My grandfather, Enoch, had two jobs : during the summer months he was a window cleaner and during the winter months he transformed himself into a watch and clock repairer. This eminently sensible reaction to the changing seasons has always appealed to me, and, in my own little way, I try to follow his lead. Thus during the Spring, Summer and Autumn months I try to take photographs, and during the Winter months I scan my 40 year old black and white negatives and transform them into digital images. 

The one thing you tend to notice when you scan random old negatives is that the thing which captures your twenty-first century interest is not necessarily the same thing that dominated your 1960s or 1970s viewpoint. Pictures of over-photographed people and over-snapped beauty spots pale into insignificance beside the classic 1960s Ford Cortina parked down the street or the torn poster hanging from the billboard. It is the power of the image which, like one of those salt-encrusted trawler nets, captures everything within its compass. 


An interesting question is "can you anticipate this process?". Can you deliberately take a photograph today which will provide such a wealth of historical detail in thirty or forty years time? I am not sure, but on my way to the pub this lunchtime I took the above photograph. I will return to this photograph in my post of the 2nd February 2051 and let you know the outcome.

14 comments:

  1. Good question. I have seen some photos online that would stand the test of time and in forty years will tell an interesting story of the time. You are so right to have the interest in a car or poster which would be able to show something of a particular period.

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  2. Alan - it would be interesting to see a 21st century photo of the very doors outside which your grandfather stood. Any idea of the address?

    Not outside his own home, by any chance?

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  3. I doubt they will have changed much, if the Houses are still standing. Probably much the same, but minus the decorative railings which will have been removed during the last World War for scrap.

    A great period picture which you are lucky to have. It's the essence of what your blogs are about, isn't it?

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  4. What an interesting concept. Now you have me wondering what I would photograph to try to capture the era. I might think on and give it a go.

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  5. A time capsule caught in a photograph. That's an interesting concept.

    I think you're so right about how sometimes the original subject of a photograph is not always what draws the eye many years later. Sometimes in the old pictures of my childhood, what I linger on lovingly is the glimpses of the objects which surround the people: the old couch, that giant ashtray on a stand my grandmother always used, the clock in my mother's kitchen. These distill the flavour of the past.

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  6. Good observation Alan. Umm, I will plan to read your post in 2051. :)

    My third son's middle name is Enoch. Good story in that name.

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  7. I really think that we haven't a clue what we really did capture. Especially now when I view all my old black and whites and spend more time looking in the background and try to read it's location and history.

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  8. Great perspective on photographs, I must say!

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  9. Isn't that the truth! Alan you are so wise to point that out. We snap pictures now and immediately down load them to crop out anything unwanted...probably most of the interesting history around the object. We're cutting out what would have made it unique decades from now!

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  10. Very astute, Alan. I have found some delightful real-estate shots of Bellevue, Washingon taken in the late 1950s, just seemingly random shots of the street and shops. And now what a lost era they evoke, with architectural detail, signage, etc!

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  11. So often, this is the case with photographs posted for Sepia Saturday. The main subjects are fascinating, but my eye is always drawn to what surrounds them. I've penned 2051 in my calendar, by-the-way.

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  12. i doubt you can anticipate it...but really the photo will be timeless if taken well...because it will be there despite your best efforts...

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  13. You look like your grandfather

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  14. What a very interesting question - and one which I will give thought to. It somehow links in my head with question of why/how photographers like Martin Parr become so famous and feted - some would say that his images are a bit amateurish - weird colours, wonky horizons etc. (Presumably it takes a bit of practice to make them look like that!) But undoubtedly in decades to come they will tell a significant story.

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