September 28th, 2013
|01:52 pm - [Developing Memories*.]|
My father was an amateur photographer and as a kid I remember him having a little darkroom set up in our basement. One of my earliest memories is of him getting the area set up or organized or whatever and he was standing at the workbench. I remember asking him about his shoes and why they were stained the way that they were and if those stains were blood. [Around this time, I'm pretty certain, he was either working as a paramedic for the fire department or was in medical school. I forget which right now but I knew that he once had blood on his shoes and it struck me to inquire about those stains.] I recall that I had been doing a remarkable job of keeping quiet and letting him do his work just prior to asking about his shoes and I knew that asking him about this bugged him in some way. He told me that they were not blood stains but that they were coffee stains. And I remember staring at them some more and trying to sort out if this were true or not. They looked more like a rust color and had tinges of red. And coffee was lighter and less thick. And on and on in the comparisons until silently concluding that they looked a lot more like blood stains to me. I finally couldn't keep quiet and whispered that I thought he was mistaken and that they had to have been blood stains. He was obviously trying to concentrate on whatever it was he was working on and was surely trying to be patient with me. And I was trying hard to not disturb him too much and only asked about the blood stains because I couldn't not ask.
I remember that he asked me if he were to give me some candy would I give him some time alone to finish up what he was doing. I said I would and he told me to go get his jacket and in the pocket was a box of cherry candies and that I could have some if I stayed upstairs. I agreed because I didn't want to bug him and felt bad I had done so already and I also gathered he didn't know how to really be honest about the blood stains in the first place. So I left to go upstairs. And as an afterthought I figured I'd grab a piece of cherry candy and the only thing I found in his jacket pocket was a box of Luden's cough drops that had lint stuck to most of them.
It was not too much later that he left.
I'm not sure of the exact specifics but in my head how I recall it is that he had left behind some sleeves of negatives that he had developed. There were maybe 90 sleeves with strips of 4-6 photos each. Just a few sleeves were printed out as a contact sheet and there were a small number of test exposure prints too. And I kept these things for my entire life. I would hold them to the light and squint to see them and as I got older I'd revisit them to try and have them scanned or printed. I bought a scanner with a negative scanning attachment and tried to do it myself. But each time I'd stop as the results were not good enough or it took too much time or it hurt in some way to see these things come to light.
The photos are mostly of ghosts. The people in them are dead. And this little collection of negatives is one of the more heavy things that I've personally encountered. I've given them a lot of weight and they have a remarkable gravity to them. They are reminders of a short period of time in my life just before everything just went to total shit. There are photos of my Uncle Cornelius who would drown not a year later. There are photos of me and my mom and my kid sister feeding the ducks on some winter day at January-Wabash park. [Taken just before the divorce.] There is a photo of my Uncle Alphonsus who would later be murdered. And more photos from a visit we had with my father’s family. My Aunt Dottie and Uncle Ray happy at their lake home and just before Ray would later murder Dorothy in the parking lot of her work as she walked to her car.] There are photos of my grandmother who looks happy instead of the sad that I remember her looking a lot more in the years that followed. And there is my mom and me and my kid sister. Smiling and hugging and kissing like crazy. And, of course, my Grandfather. My eternal hero and the person I loved most in the world. Just having these photos of him alone makes these things priceless to me.
So just the other day Katherine brought home these photos for me. She had them professionally scanned and dumped onto a some CDs and I’ve been able to see them all for the first time just over the last couple of days.
I’ve never been more grateful to my father for anything and if not for him taking so many photos I’d not have this record of things.
The photos are being uploaded to Flickr. The link is here.
*Pun initially unintended and then after considering a suitable edit was intentionally left alone.
|Date:||September 29th, 2013 02:59 am (UTC)|| |
well, that was intense.
My Daddy was an optometrist and amateur photographer, and I suddenly remember being allowed to sit on the basement stairs and not move while he ran the amazing accordion-y enlarger in the red light. (I'm sure I must have been sufficiently chastened for previous errors like OPENING THE DAMN DOOR by that time.)
He left, too, but to be with Jesus, and his darkroom sat in the basement on the shelf where he used it. Old print paper boxes like stationery boxes, stuffed with snapshots and negatives and commercial prints from other darkrooms and some private ones he would never have sent out to print. My mom gave all the cameras and equipment to one of my uncle Leonard's daughters and over the decades the photos got left behind here and there. Then my sister and my cousin both produced some photos I had thought were gone for good. What a strange mix of emotions on seeing them again. Then again, how should a man react to a photo of his mother sitting on the toilet at a party, leopard-print panties at her ankles, smoking, and gabbing with her friend Donna Ryder?
You really are my little brother I never had.
Edited at 2013-09-29 03:02 am (UTC)
I actually just wrote about something similar on my website that will be launching this month. My father was also a photographer and I spent countless hours working with him in the darkroom with him.