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October 27th, 2005


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05:30 pm - ghosts
Found this one via Metafilter, but it's great. It's the website of a fellow who collects antique cameras containing exposed but undeveloped film. He then develops the film and shares the results with the rest of us. Ghosts from half a century ago suddenly appear for the first time and just as quickly fade away. There's even a bit of murky cheesecake ("I recognize that look," the curator notes, "despite my advanced age and the blurred nature of the shot. Those are very short shorts.")

The guy behind the site provides commentary for many of the pictures in varying degrees of lucidity, from maudlin homebrewed poems in terrible rhyme to flippant, almost insulting, hypothetical character descriptions:
I think the woman sitting to Olive's right is her sister, Ethel. She's the dominant one who gets first crack at the food on the dinner table. The girl on the left looks a little like Haley Mills but you probably don't remember who Haley Mills was. All the girls in my high school class looked like Olive and Ethyl. They all found husbands anyway... This is Ethyl's little boy "Jimmy." Today he's an eight-track cartridge repairman. I think that's a camper behind him or else it's a tractor trailer and Jimmy's playing next to the highway.
When lucid, though, the fellow does make a few good points about the nature of film photography, most notably the fact that when you had but a small, finite number of exposures on a roll of film, you chose your shots carefully. Shots were set up with the utmost care, people were posed just right, and held still for the shot. Often times a second shot was taken "to make sure it comes out." The shoot-all-you-want-and-let-God-sort-the-digital-contact-sheet-out philsophy is a luxury to digital photographers, and it can make a person complacent. People still can (and still do) choose their digital shots judiciously, and I know quite a few of you out there do, but there's just something about film which helps the attitude along so well.

My absolute favorite set is a sequence from WWII. An entire roll of film developed from an Argus-a camera and presented in the order in which the pictures were taken. It's sequential art, is what it is; the pictures tell the homecoming story. You start on the ship, travel through to New York Harbor, and end up back home with relatives, the cat, and the girl he left behind. It's amazingly beautiful and thankfully bereft of any extraneous commentary. So wonderful.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:nathanw
Date:October 27th, 2005 09:59 pm (UTC)
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The interesting thing about choosing your shots carefully is the degree to which professional photographers abandoned it long ago, even during the era of film.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:October 27th, 2005 10:04 pm (UTC)
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That'd be cause professionals would have the luxury of bracketing their shots, right? Amateurs would still have to choose carefully lest their roll of 24 be short an exposure or two.
[User Picture]
From:lexinatrix
Date:October 27th, 2005 10:03 pm (UTC)
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I also liked that WWII sequence, probably as much for the lack of commentary as the wealth of photos. Do you think it was Italy in most of those shots?
[User Picture]
From:she_parser
Date:October 27th, 2005 10:55 pm (UTC)
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This is so beautiful. The commentary reminds me of something that could be found on Lileks.com.
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From:signsoflife
Date:October 28th, 2005 12:55 am (UTC)
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The thing I notice is that there's already a generation gap in re. photography -- people my parents' age don't ask to see the shot after they've been photographed, and it feels a bit weird to me, like, "hey, don't you want to see?". It just doesn't occur to them. Meanwhile, people under, say, ten now often don't comprehend NOT seeing the shot immediately when shot with film.

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