So, there we are – the end of the month. It started with a somewhat digitally enhanced photograph of the River Don, and ended up at the back of Elland Town Hall. On the way we passed some old picture postcards, some forgotten politicians, a few remembered sights of my youth, and the odd ancient relative. The project of sharing my desktop calendar started as a bit of a blogging trial, I didn’t expect it to last more than a few days. And here we are at the end of the month and there are 31 photographs to look back on.
That was January 2021. That was the month, that was. Let’s see what February has to offer.
My desktop calendar image today features a photograph I took ten years ago whilst visiting an ornamental garden in Tenerife. Why I took a photograph of the ticket office, I don’t know – it was one of those instinctive shots that sometimes works …. and more often, doesn’t. I like to think it did this time, although I would have difficulty explaining why. There is something about the Agatha Christie posters, the Union Jack and the expression of the ticket seller. Murder most foul in Tenerife.
Although I have been scanning old family photographs for more than a decade, there are still some that remain unscanned, uncategorised, and unshared. Today I get to share two, both of which, I believe, were taken on the same outing almost ninety years ago. From the youthful and recognisable handwriting on the back of each photograph, it appears that I did question my parents about the location of the trip, and therefore I know that the first shows my father, Albert, balanced astride a log bridge over the Gordale Beck, near Malham in North Yorkshire, whilst the second shows my mother, Gladys, along with two companions sat in front of Janet’s Foss Waterfall near Malham Tarn.
There is a quote from Albert Einstein in which he says “Photographs never grow old …. How nice to look at a photograph of mother and father taken many years ago – you see them as you remember them“. This is a classic example of Einstein being tripped up by his own theories of relativity. These photographs are not of my parents as I remember them – these are unknown people who grew into my parents fifteen years later. Photographs can grow old and they can grow young as well. This could have been Einstein’s Photographic Theory of Relativity if he had taken the trouble to sit down and think about it.
I found this reflection of a gable end in the polished signage of Elland sweet maker and seller, Joseph Dobson And Sons, whilst I was sorting through some old colour negatives yesterday. The photograph probably dates from the late 1970s or early 1980s, and the sign must have been on the shop in Southgate, Elland, rather than the factory in Northgate, but I can’t be sure of that. The story of Dobson’s – the originator of the famous Yorkshire Mixture – is a fascinating one and can be found on their website. Like a good boiled sweet it contains flavours that are both familiar and unexpected – the family connections to other sweet makers, the early medicinal connections, and the chance discovery of Yorkshire Mixture when a tray of boiled sweets was dropped. You can’t rush a boiled sweet, and therefore it is quite right that this fine bit of lettering will be in front of me for a full day. It is something to savour.
Back in the olden days, when the sun shone every summer and when kids were happy with a mouldy orange for a Christmas present, photography was partly a chemical process. After you had carefully clicked a shutter – and, be careful, film costs money you know – you would disappear into a dark room and start mixing chemical solutions in the pale glow of an amber lamp. Sometimes things could go wrong, and if they did, there was no “undo the last action” command. You would occasionally be left with negatives that had strange markings, grain that would gather together in the manner of congealed soup, and shades of grey that were even more bizarre than an erotic dream. When it came to the enlarging process, you would often pass such negatives by – they weren’t worth the investment in expensive bromide paper and developing solution. What the hell, you would think, I will leave that one for fifty years until I am old and locked down, with nothing better to do than to rescan the negative, remix the colours, remaster the grain and remember the days when Halifax had mill chimneys punctuating the sky.
I approach the selection of images for my desktop calendar in a structured and logical fashion. I have created a carefully designed algorithm which takes into account a variety of factors such as mood, season, phases of the moon, and circadian rhythms. Having created it, I immediately consigned it to the waste thinking bin – I have three bins in my office, one for waste paper, one for waste plastic and one for waste thoughts – and relied instead on the Random Interaction Method. I have just short of 75,000 photographs in my Lightroom Catalogue, and therefore there is a good chance that if you dive in at random you might come up with something you can share the day with. My random dive today saw me emerge just outside a Mercedes-Benz car showroom in Sheffield, four and a half years ago. It appears I emerged in the form of a Phoenix, ready to confront what the week has in store for me. It could have been worse.
An old friend of mine recommended Stephen Poliakoff’s “Shooting The Past” (and even better, sent me the DVD through the post), and I have been watching and enjoying it over the past few nights. What struck a particular chord with me was the ability to love photographs for their own sake, not because they feature Uncle Joe or Cousin Ada … or even more bizarrely in these modern days, because they provide an enhanced vision of oneself. Photographs of all types, have played a massive part in my life, and therefore today I am featuring an old photograph from an album of unknown photos of people, which came into my possession via eBay. All I know is that the subject of the photograph was called Derrick. I don’t even need to know that. On its own, it is a fine photograph – good enough to grace the shelves of the Fallon Photo Library.