Friday, 21 September 2007

Great images, important photos

Mum & Dad 0n their 40th, September 2007

Bear with me, this might go on a bit...

As a present to my parents for their 40th anniversary, my sister & I prepared an album of re-touched old photos. Quite a logisitics feat: raiding the house while they were away, getting the material to me, scanning & re-working them and then ordering up a printed book (from highly recommended - more another time).

That's slightly beside the point.

Yours truly on the "Great Baking Day", ca 1976, taken by my Mum

What I discovered as I worked through the material was that the quality of the photo had absolutely nothing to do with its importance to the project. The collection of shots ranged from scans from the original wedding album, through a whole load of decades-old Kodachrome slides (taken on an Instamatic) through to modern bulk-print 4x6s. Not a negative in sight. Many of the slides are out of focus, usually from being way too close to the subject. Colour is all over the shop (except the B&W wedding shots, where the tonal range is very limited). Technically, not a body of work that will hit any museum.
In the end, though, that matters not one jot. I could have put together an album of the very best shots of the places the family had been, scoured the archives for the most technically sound shots 9colour, composition, subject etc etc). The end result would have looked good. It would not have had the same impact.
The final collection - full of pictures of family events, kids on the beach etc - was able to move my mother to tears in a way nothing else could. It formed a talking point for the day and will serve as an aide memoire for years to come.

The day itself went very well. Friends & family gathered together in harmony. Many of us hadn't seen each other in years yet it was as if we'd never been apart. The atmosphere was so good, even the staff at the hotel commented on what a good event it was. Testament to good relationships.
As indeed were the marriages represented: about 15 or 16 couples amongst 40 guests. Average marriage must have been arounf 25 years. I wonder how many other such gatherings could boast the same? As I stated in my toast, it is very much a special and unusual event when complete strangers congratulate the couple: my friends and colleagues have done so every time I mentioned the event.

Dad's brothers, sister their wives & husband, September 2007

I also snapped off a bunch of shots, as did most there. Few will go down as great photos but they will all be impotant in their way.

The final message of all this - it is the family shots, the quirky snaps of things people do, that will become the important photos for us in years to come. If a photographer is ever striving for great art and stunning images he had better not forget those around him, either.

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