My lifelong love of photography has always been motivated not by any abstract search for the perfect composition, but by a fascination with the photographers' ability to stop time. Maybe this is why I have never taken to film or video, where one creates a continuous record from which you can only read the passage of a given story rather than explore the possibilities of a story yet untold. For me it is the "decisive moment" of Cartier Bresson that is paramount, that "simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression" (Henri Cartier-Bresson. The Decisive Moment (1952)).
And that is why I so enjoy scanning my old negatives and rediscovering those "decisive moments" of years gone by. That moment in time when I pressed a camera shutter and pickled the world in aspic. Here is a photograph which I took at the Halifax Gala back in the mid 1960s. Nice composition, nice enough subject matter. But zoom in and look at those faces, read their lives, predict their futures. Take any one of the fifteen or twenty faces in the enlargement; each one is a life, each one is a catalogue of experiences and emotions. And fate or fortune brought them all together to listen to a brass band playing. And there they listened as they let their expressions tell a story. And now we read that story almost fifty years later. That is the delight of photography.
Several people have asked me about the mechanics of scanning old negatives. I promise to address the technical issues in a blog-post later this week.