Old slides. Everyone of a certain age has them stacked up in little Kodak boxes or organized in vinyl sheets. People used to come home from vacation, gather family and friends in a darkened room and show slides till everyone was falling asleep. Remember the sound of one slide clicking to the next, the frustration when a slide would get stuck or appear sideways or upside down, the dust floating in the light of the projector bulb?
What am I talk about? You just click “slide show” on your computer, right? Not in the old days, not so very long ago. Slides were photo images shot on pieces of film that you took to the drugstore where they were processed and each picture fastened into a cardboard square. One at a time, you fit them into a rectangular or circular container that fit into a projector that showed a lot through the image and projected it onto a screen or a blank wall. You had to turn out the lights to see them properly.
I have hundreds of slides. Although I have been publishing photographs for decades, most of my slides are seriously underexposed. I was good at black and white prints, the staple at my newspaper jobs, but I never got the right combination of f-stop, exposure time and flash for slides. Thank God for automatic cameras.
I bring this up because I have started scanning my old slides, culling the ones I don’t want anymore and making digital copies of the ones I still like. Grabbing boxes at random from the 1980s and 1990s, I find that I took weird pictures. While most people photographed their family members standing up against the beach, historic building, statue or whatever, mine rarely included people. I shot cows, cats, alleys, trees, sprinklers, textured doors, and sea gulls, so many gulls. Maybe one or two shots per role show people. Now that they’re dead or much older, I wish I had done the traditional people shots more often. As I scan, I find myself saving even the blurry ones because they’re more precious than yet another beach shot or a cat that has probably been dead for 20 years. And I get so excited when I see a little piece of our car. That’s the white Honda!!!
I also wish I had labeled pictures better. Oregon beach? Which one? A forest path? Where is that? Was it rebellion against my newspaper photographer assignments where I had to include people in nearly every shot and meticulously document names, dates, and locations, making sure to spell everything right? Always shy, I hated having to walk up to strangers, ask to take their pictures, then spend several minutes trying to get their names and a useful quote. What a luxury on vacation to scatter-shoot anything that caught my eye without taking notes. Of course now I usually travel alone, so I’m still shooting buildings and animals.
Here’s a shot of my old dog, Sadie. Oh my heart. I forgot how beautiful she was, how lush her fur in comparison to Annie’s sleek pelt.
Hey, there’s me. 1993.Yachats Writer’s Conference. I did not know then that many of the writers there would become my friends after we moved to the Oregon coast. Apparently I did not understand that you could wear jeans and fleece everywhere. What a weekend that was.
I stare at these slides as memories emerge from the deep vaults in my brain. My scanner is old and slow. I have time to wonder what happened to these people and these places and consider how different things look to me as a resident from how they looked when I was just one of many tourists passing through.
I think I need to throw most of these slides away once I scan the ones I like best. But computer technology changes constantly. Will I be able to see them five years from now? Ten years? Will I be around to care? Lacking answers, let me a share of few of them now while I ponder whether I have the patience to scan all of my slides or whether it’s worth the effort.
What about you? Do you have slides or photos from the past that you keep but rarely look at? Have you digitized them? Has the meaning changed with the years?