Sunday 21 December 2008

ghosts of Christmas past

...and much else besides.

For the past three weeks or so I've been putting together a family album of photographs for my mother - the earliest years of her family, dating from 1860's until her youth (there will be sequels....). I have scanned the photographs, restoring some pretty much as they are; with others I have done a lot of work. They are printed in a photobook (by photobox). I went for photobox as they were the only printers who could guarantee Christmas delivery (I was skating on thin ice time-wise). I'm delighted. It is something she will look through, not worry about damaging (and she would worry) - she can do what she likes with it, write notes in it, over it...the text I have chosen is nice and large...

I have a respect and preference, sometimes, for 'sacred dirt' - the accumulation of the vestiges, and witness of, time. But to strip away stains and discoloration, to remove a tear, or creases, to recreate someone's likeness so it is more as it was when the shutter was tripped - restoration can bring someone to life in a powerful way. Especially for people who are old enough to remember those people - they are often not so pleased with the stains, tears, rips, which represent only damage, not history.

There are other ways - I still copy individual photographs onto film and print archivally, depending on the photograph, and individual digital files can also now be printed onto fibre-based black and white darkroom paper made by Ilford (though this paper cannot be chemically toned).

For this particular purpose, though, using the photobook route has been liberating - and I think I'm hooked. It's a wonderful way to share (rellies - you know where I am!) and the originals can stay safe (some need to, as they are now very delicate). Meanwhile the people, the stories are here directly before us, to look at and to touch, whispering to us something of how we came to be here.

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My mother, on a beach, in Australia - her birthplace - many Christmases (or so) ago.....

on a beach ⓒ Cate McRae 2008; all rights reserved

All Images ⓒ Cate McRae 2008; All Rights Reserved