Why did I take these slides in 1992?

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 light 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 strangerssadie-1997ish, 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?











Old photos: Sneaking a Peek into the Past

Fred 1940BThis weekend, still babying my sprained ankle, I took a journey into the past. I spent several hours scanning old slides and photos that have been piled up in boxes and envelopes for ages. The inheritor of my husband Fred’s family archives, I have sent boxes of pictures to his brother and his kids, but there were many photos I wanted to keep copies of for myself. Plus, having been a photographer most of my life, I have tons of my own pictures to digitize.

The weekend’s photos were a blend of my own life and Fred’s. Many of the pictures were old black and whites of Fred as a baby and little boy. Quite a few showed his parents, Al and Helen Lick, when they were young. I found pictures of Fred’s mother’s parents and THEIR parents, the Waltons and the Townes, below. I never met those people, but as the pictures went farther and farther back in time, I got more and more excited. Fred’s mother as a child, her mother and her mother’s mother. Her father, bottom right. I donG W's folks MM Clinton Towne’t even know his first name, but I want to know his story. The settings took me back to my 1950s childhood and farther back into the years just before I was born. Look at those old cars, the baggy pants, the braided hairdos. Imagine living in that house.

I loved looking at how Fred changed from that baby to that cute little boy (upper right) to that gawky teen to that handsome Navy man to my wonderful bearded husband. I could see the arc of his whole life in these pictures.

There were others, photos from my own life. One showed the whole family that I used to have when I was marriedGr Walton & Teeny 1948 to my first husband. There I was with my long hair, minimal makeup and big glasses, surrounded by the Fagaldes and Barnards. Me, in love with a man who was not Fred—before the divorce. Other pictures showed Fred and his kids, my parents, my brother, my cousins, my grandparents. School pictures, holidays, trips.

I can only look at so many of my own pictures before sadness and loss overwhelm me. So many of my loved ones have died; so many of the living are far away. Maybe that’s why it’s so fun looking at Fred’s family photos. I never met most of these people. I didn’t know Fred and his brothers when they were kids. It’s like piecing together a story that goes back through nearly a century. Some of the photos are turning brown. Some are scratched, torn or bent, but each one captures a moment, opening the shutters so I can peek in.

And now, with computer technology, I don’t have to decide what to keep or who to send the pictures to. We can all have copies. Magic! (Kids and cousins, I will email you copies.)

I’m grateful for Fred’s mother writing information on the back of many photos. Too many of mine say nothing or just offer first names. Other people might not know who they are. Preserving old photos is an art. Maybe all of your pictures are stored on your computer or phone, but most of us still have some actual photographs hanging around. I know I could do a better job of preserving them. Maybe you could, too. The following links offer some advice on what to do with them.

Continue reading “Old photos: Sneaking a Peek into the Past”

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