Thursday, April 05, 2012

Memory Still Intact ü

Ja, it is time to consume your bacon sarnie with gusto Mein Freund!
Jut out your angular little beard, Be proud of it.
Don your penny-rounders. You know, the pair your vife bought you last year.
Quick! There is no time to lose!
Find the moth-eaten corduroy trousers at the back of your cupboard, and take to the couch, because, for zis veekend's FogBlog: 
'I vant you to tell me about your childhood'

(My apologies of course to any readers of a foreign persuasion, I am after all British, and the above is just something we do, but it is never meant [by me] with any seriousness.)

Please forgive me if you are a follower (albeit casual) of FB - I am maybe going to move over to a once a week, weekend thing, which might be better for me, because I don't want to stretch myself too thin, and better for you, because you don't feel you have to read this stuff . . .
This could be a good thing for both of us, because instead of dealing with the dreaded working week, it could be Weekend FogBlog at every posting!
Hoorah! I hear.
How brave to make something in life that can be so insightful, such a jolly thing that only happens at the weekend when we have time to read it!
Oh and a Happy Easter to you and yours . . .

We shall see how it goes, but in the meantime, today's little piece is to do with how deeply photographs are integrated into our memory.
It is a strange thing, but to get all philosophical, does the photograph equal the memory, or is the memory enhanced by repeated views of the photograph?
I think the majority of people would plump for the latter and yet, in my own case (well before I even started to view a lot of my parent's old photographs) I was aware of very deep memories of the photographs being taken.
It is hard to get a true take on this, because in actuality the claim that you can remember a photograph being taken, or more correctly, the moment that brought about the photograph being taken, is pretty preposterous, especially when it involves the depths of time that take you back to your very early years.
I have a series of photographs of myself at the age of two months. I know they were taken at two months, because my Mum wrote it on their backs. Strange as it might seem, I remember the time frame in which these photographs were taken.
Now give or take a number of months, these are memories from 50 years ago, which is a pretty remarkable thing when you think about it. Is the slowly developing, fleshy miracle that is your brain really capable of such a feat? Well, yes, I believe it is.
These are just about my earliest memories, but obviously because I was barely new and have nothing else to judge them against, things get a tad jumbled, so mixed in with these photographs being taken are other very early memories that didn't involve a camera:

Being weighed at a clinic (obviously I had no idea I was being weighed!)
Being fed by my Mum.
Having a photograph taken in the bath tub in front of the fire (sorry that one has a camera in it).
Wearing a felt hat that was too big for my head (actually there's a photo of that too).

The cynical amongst you will say that the photographs have enhanced the memory, but I will disagree with you till the cows come home, because I know my own brain. I had memories of these memories when I was a larger child, way before I even knew what that collection of bags and boxes in the top of Mum and Dad's wardrobe contained.
I think what I am trying to say, is that a photograph being taken (back in the day when it was still expensive to get a film processed and printed) was an occasion. Everything had to count and even though they were called 'snapshots' it was still a big thing - well it certainly was in my family. Did a sense of that occasion enhance the feelings of everyone around so that there was something ethereal in the air? A sense of anticipation perhaps? Was that sense of something being preserved for posterity maybe tangible to a young and sensitive brain; so much to the extent (that for a small period of time) the very young me had a heightened awareness of something going on? I don't know, but with regard to the photographs below I can tell you this:
It is the back garden of our council house, on one of the then relatively new estates in Northolt (Middlesex, England) in late August/early September 1961; it is warm, and Dad has carried me gently up against his right shoulder from the house. That's my pram being aired by the way (it's a cracker isn't it!). Mum has laid the blanket (ex-army, procured during WW II by my Uncle Joe) on our lawn, and I am carefully passed from Dad to Mum, from Mum to my Aunty Jane and then back to Dad to be posed.

(Mum and I)

(Aunty Jane and I) 
Note the nifty Deckle Edge on this print!

(Dad and I)

Would you believe me if I said I can almost feel their presence in these simple photos?
Mum, Dad and Aunty Jane are all dead now, but there's just something there.
So, this extremely long weekend, if you get a chance, why not go and look out some photos from your earliest times.
Find a quiet room and lock the door if you can.
Forget music or leaving the TV on, you need concentration.
Now lay the photos out and look at them and try to see if somewhere in your mind you can remember the occasion.
Maybe that wee person that was going to become you is still in there (somewhere).

On a totally photographic note, it is interesting that these were processed and printed 50 years ago. The camera I believe would have been our Kodak Brownie 127 - a brown bakelite marvel.
The paper is Ilford. I no longer have the negatives so I have no idea of film (either Kodak or Ilford - I would say Kodak though) but with regard to the prints, there is no way these were archivally processed! They were probably done by Tudor D&P through our local chemist.
The prints are fine, which says a hell of a lot to me as a printer who has been more than a bit obsessed with archival processing.
The one caveat I will add, is that fortunately we were never a 'grab and show' family with prints.*
Dad always emphasised that you should handle a print carefully and preferably hold it by its edges.
Well done Dad and thanks - our memories are still here.

* If you have a large archive of proper silver gelatine prints of this age or older, I cannot emphasise it enough - please be kind to them!

1 comment:

  1. yes I do believe you, as I look at a photo of Joe & Enid Rogers I feel a stronger connection to them. I look into Joe's eyes and it's a wonderful feeling :-)