On Saving The Soul Of An Unknown Woman
Collecting old photographs of people you don’t know and have no connection with, is an odd way of passing the time. It ranks up there with lamp-post collecting and knot-tying – and a little behind old-time sequence dancing – as a legitimate way of keeping the mind active in old-age. There is, however, an element of salvation involved, of a type you might reasonably get as a missionary. Abandoned photographs have been abandoned – they are unwanted and unloved, they are monuments to people who are destined to be forgotten. By snatching that old and faded photograph from the jaws of the incinerator, you are helping to save, not the soul, but the image of a human being. And, given time and a reasonable amount of cask-conditioned real ale, I could make a decent case for saying that, at the end of the day, the soul and the image are the same thing.
This is a scan of a tiny print – no more that an inch by an inch and a half – of a young woman stood on top of a hill. It dates, I suspect, from the 1920s. There is something determined in her look, something that demands not to be lost, not to be forgotten. I am sharing this image with the world and making it available for posterity. I am saving her image – and perhaps her soul.