I have been interested in objects as a witness to the past. Passed through my family on my father’s side is a collection of ephemera. Within the bag of ephemera there are a collection of large format negatives. They are contained within paper sleeves and Kodak competition information on these suggest they are from the 1920s/ early 1930s. Some of the negatives are grouped together and categorised, whilst others are jumbled together. I have methodically gone through the negatives and scanned them into a computer to preserve and digitalise the image, and this also allows me to invert it and reveal the photographic image. After speaking to my father, he can recognise some of the people in the photographs as his grandmother (Lillian Florence, daughter of Staff Seargent George Elbby Smith), his grandfather, and his mother and uncle. A lot of the people in the photographs remain unknown, presumably friends and family of my Great Grandparents. These forgotten faces and lives intrigue me.
I find it fascinating the way only the negatives seem to remain, I do not have the original photos. I think it would be interesting to display the negatives together in a large group, or to print these as positive images and cover a wall with them. Each one is like a little window into a life once lived. These film negatives are a physical trace of a memory and a moment frozen in time.
I feel like film photography gives a true reflection of life. There is not the option to take 100 photos and choose the best one, deleting 99 others. They are not digitally altered, manipulated, colour corrected or photoshopped into a false sense of perfection. You can see blurred prints of babies moving, and multiple takes to try and get the most successful image, but the outtakes are also included in the final prints and negatives. Some of the film negatives are overexposed, or multiple images have been accidentally overlayed on the same piece of film. These errors are part of the nature of analogue photography, and I am interested in the way an image degrades. Each photograph has been carefully composed, processed and printed and consequently feels like it has greater value than a digital image stored on a phone today.
I am exploring the idea of positive vs negative, inversion and digital vs analogue to work with these photo negatives. I will also explore this idea further using printmaking.