One of my techniques for coping with my bereavement is to be busy, to have lots to do so I’m not constantly thinking about losing my beloved wife, Jenny. So I imagine a wide variety of projects, many of which never leave the initial planning stage because I recognise that they’re either boring, or impractical, or just a waste of time, money, and space.
But sometimes I see them through, and my latest project was to go through all the photographic prints which have for years lived in plastic bags and cardboard boxes littered around the dining room.
There were many hundreds of them, and I am embarrassed to say that 90% or more – probably a great deal more than 90% – are absolute rubbish and not worth keeping.
The prints show a wide variety of faults. Many are badly blurred, either because they are out of focus or because there was camera movement. Many lack any semblance of interest, and many of those that do have interesting subjects are taken so far away from those subjects that they lose all impact. They are plain, boring, poor quality. And of course, there are many duplicates because in the days of film cameras it wasn’t possible to check a photograph when you’d just taken it – what is sometimes called “the chimp mode” in the modern era of digital cameras with preview screens – and so you would take a whole series of photographs of any given subject or scene in the hope that you might capture at least one image worth looking at. Of course, it also meant capturing whole series of photographs not worth looking at., and being both lazy and a hoarder I never discarded the dross
And although most of them had been stored in the original packets in which they were returned from the processors, over the years they had fallen out of those packets, so even when the packets had been labelled (I must confess that 99% of them were labelled by Jenny) and even the year of any given print can often not be identified.
So, what to do with them now? Well, the very worst have been confined to the rubbish bin. Some very few have been scanned and loaded onto my photo frame despite many of them being of poor quality despite extensive processing on my computer. They do evoke precious memories, and for that I am grateful and pleased, and the process of doing all this got me thinking about storing, cataloguing, and above all displaying photographs.
Things of course are now very different. We can undertake a great many more photographs using our electronic devices, with a serious digital single lens reflex cameras costing £4000 and more, or our mobile phones. My preference is for the portability and immediate accessibility of my camera phone, which is now so good that I can print in colour up to A3 from my phone images, and A3 is really the practical limit for my home processing.
But I suspect that, for most of us, these days pretty much all the photographs we take are saved to the mobile camera, and only ever seen on those devices. Very convenient for sharing with friends, but not ideal.
Years ago, for those who had the patience (which unfortunately I did not have, hence my current project of having to rescue photographs from plastic bags and cardboard boxes) we might have mounted them in photograph albums, and of course it’s still an option if we print from our camera phones. Recently I have printed photographs, mounted them on foam board and displayed them on a wall in my home (see above). And I am currently contemplating creating a book of my photographs, partly because I enjoy handling books and looking at pictures in books: in many ways it’s far more satisfying than looking at one of the many screens which surround us these days; but also so that I might pass on some of my memories to my children and grandchildren.