Anyway, as you can imagen many of these photos I know well, they have been viewed many times over the years, however the positive slides I have not seen since I was a child, the viewer got lost or broken and these images slipped out of memory and they would have stayed there had it not been for a lucky coincidence. Last weekend I found myself on Bray seafront with a little time to kill and did something I never do – I went to bray market – for those of you who don’t know Bray market and are picturing an eclectic mix of food and exotic Knick knacks from all four corners of the world – stop!
It is located behind the train station and is not for the faint-hearted – The narrow lane that leads to the market reeks of spilt beer and is stacked high with old beer kegs and trash – I feel like Indiana Jones as I round the last keg and make a dash for the market door under the watchful eye of a feral cat.
The market itself has a strange sad carnival feel a mixture of the unwanted, unneeded, unnecessary and outdated. A giant pinball machine looms over a stack of Gramaphone records, bargain price aviation oil, what looks like the world’s first internet modem still in its box, 8 track music cassettes, ancient music systems (None of which played 8 track cassettes) There is something tragic and yet intriguing about this place. In among all this rubbish, there could be a hidden gem, some man at the back in the half-light with a beautiful wooden box “It’s called Mogwai and you must never feed it after midnight”
What I stumbled upon last Saturday in this place was maybe not so fantastical but for me, it was in some small way just as magical, it was a small USB Silvercrest Negative digitizer, this little device will scan those old positive slides and let me glimpse the world my father lived in back in the late ’60s and early 70’s a guide if you will to the people and places that mattered enough for him to photograph.
All of my father’s slides are shot on Kodachrome – a film stock synonymous with beautiful colour tones and the look of that era. I am 46 and although I have shot a lot of films most of it was black and white, I just loved the darkroom so I never exposed a single roll of Kodachrome but we have all heard of the beauty of Kodachrome.
Knowing my own nature and my want to edit I felt I had to make one basic rule for myself before I started on this project of digitising my dad’s images.
The objective is to get what is on the slide to digital – no enhancement
I started with cleaning the slides, after so many years in a box underneath the stairs the slides have collected a lot of dirt and little hairs. I slowly cleaned each slide with isopropyl alcohol and a cotton bud – This is a painfully slow process and is defiantly a case of gently does it – I really wanted to restore these images in as genuine a way as possible, It would have been a lot easier to simply scan the pictures and use Photoshops tools to clean up the slides but I felt I would have been throwing away some of what I was trying so hard to preserve ( Maybe I’m crazy ) Anyway the process is slow but the results are worth it. I have to say I find it relaxing apart from the smell of isopropyl alcohol.
As I have gone through this process something has struck me, you can’t take these many shots without having a great passion for photography, I have to admit I have fallen in love with a few of these images, don’t get me wrong I’m not suggesting that my father is the next Vivian Maier some undiscovered talent just that he and I shared a common passion.