One of the finds from the Hawai‘i photo stash was the photo/card sleeve from my grandmother’s wallet. Interesting to see what she kept on her. It doesn’t look like she threw anything out since the baby photos of my mom and uncle look like they’ve been there for decades. Plus she kept all her identification from World War 2.
Category Archives: ephemera
A second batch of scans from Hawai‘i. The first batch was pre-marriage and pre-kids. This batch is random family photos from the 1950s through around 1970. These photos correspond to the stories which my mom tells about her childhood. These are various film formats—some 6×6, some 135, some 4×4 (I think). As before, it’s a bit odd how everything is scaled to fit the same size online.
I’m also including two other previous scans from the same time period
Part of the family vacation component of my Hawai‘i trip was to come back with a pile of photos to scan. A lot of them are extended family so I have to do some work to identify who they are. The first batch I’ve been scanning has been photos of my grandparents. Mostly of my grandmother. Mostly taken before my mom was born.
So we’re talking around early 1940s for most of these. The non-studio photos all appear contact prints from 120 or 620 film (~2.25 inches wide).
The studio photos are interesting since they’re much more like the kinds of photos I would see on people’s walls during my childhood visits. Professional photos were framed, everything else went in albums.
And a couple notes on scanning. It’s a tough decision between trying to correct the color and contrast of the aged print and maintaining the sense that these are old, faded, and beat up items. I hope I’ve found the right balance here. Also, it’s very strange to see all of these scaled to exactly the same 500-pixel widths. In person, the prints are all slightly different sizes. Scanning everything results in a forced uniformity which loses some of the character of the artifacts.
This is prompted by a post and subsequent discussion on 1/125 about the persistent ignorance by photographers of photographic history.
We’re constantly seeing news stories, blog posts, etc. bemoaning how photography has changed “in the digital age.” There are debates about whether Photoshop post-processing or in-camera Hipstamatic-style filters are somehow cheating or lying or not photography. And, as in the 1/125 post, there are existential questions about what it means to be a photographer when anyone or everyone can be a photographer.
What I find interesting is that none of the questions are new but there’s an assumption by many people that something is different now. Maybe the context is different now. Maybe we’ve reached a tipping point where the same old questions have different answers than they used to.
I believe that there is indeed something different happening now but that people are asking the wrong questions. It’s very easy to ask the same old questions because those questions have been around forever.
In photography, the digital revolution is not a technological revolution. It is a social one. Photography’s history is marked by the constant democratization of access to the medium and a parallel dialog about what it means to actually be a photographer (artistically and/or professionally). Digital photography drastically increased the conversion rate of people into photographers. The revolution however is one of ignorance and innocence as the parallel dialog has come to be dominated by people who do not understand the past.
The questions now should have more to do with the consumption of photography, not the creation of it.
Now that anyone can publish, how do we know whether what we’re looking at is worth looking at? It’s fine for me to determine my own criteria, but I can’t expect the general populace to have the same level of awareness and knowledge. Who should be people’s photography guide in an age of internet experts and easy opinions?
How do I hire a professional photographer when I can no longer rely on the equipment to serve as a proxy for technical competence? 100 years ago, baby photos such as the one of my grandfather at the top of this post were made by professional photographers who operated a camera and created family photos. 50 years ago, most baby photos were taken by cheap bakelite cameras but professional photographers still existed for formal posed photos. Now, amateur equipment is identical to professional equipment* and it’s completely expected that the general public no longer knows what to expect from a professional.
*This brings up a side observation which I haven’t seen mentioned at all. While photography is distinguished by the increase in access to the tools of creation, it’s also distinguished by the gradual amateurization of professional equipment.
Our problem as photographers is that we’re focusing on the wrong questions. We’re still worried about distinguishing ourselves. What we should be concerned about is educating others. If we can’t teach people what to expect from a professional or what makes good photography, it won’t matter how much we try and make good photography ourselves.
I’m working on a side project which involves going through my collection of random ephemera and pulling out items for scanning. In addition to being a nice change of pace from my usual workflow, it’s a lot of fun to be reminded why I held on to all kinds of random crap. Today’s exhibit involves ticket stubs.
The one above is from the 1989 World Series game which was interrupted by the Loma Prieta earthquake. Yes, I was there. And as anyone familiar with Candlestick can tell you, I was way way way up at the top of the stadium. That the rain check is absent is my proof that I returned for the rescheduled game 10 days later. I’m still shocked that the ticket price is only $40. Parking probably costs that much now.
Sticking with the topic of crazy ticket prices, how does the idea of paying $250 for a pair of tickets to five World Cup games sound? In 1994, that’s how cheap soccer tickets had to be for people to go. I made it to three of the five games we purchased. The first one was Brazil’s 3-0 victory over Cameroon and was also my first real introduction to international soccer crowds.
I ended up being lucky enough to get to see Brazil and the USA meet in the second round game (on July 4th too!). Not the best of games but it’s not every day you get to see your national team play Brazil in the knockout round of the World Cup.
While I didn’t go to too many concerts while I was in high school, I did get to see many of the bands which, in hindsight, I should have seen. Yay for festivals. Pearl Jam was one of the few full-length concerts I went to. I remember it being good. Opening acts made less of an impression on me (even though I think one of them was Ben Harper).
I know there are recordings of this show out there. I’m simultaneously curious to hear the recordings and scared that they won’t be what I remember.
Also of note about this ticket stub is that it dates from the period of time when Pearl Jam was boycotting TicketMaster. In fact, none of the ticket stubs here have any exorbitant service fees associated with them. A different world indeed…