Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Photography of the Past

Hi all,
This is not a post about recumbent cycling, or even about riding some steep canyon, or the repairing and configuring of the Little Red Bike. The subject of this post is photography. Primarily, it is about the history of photography in my family during the last one hundred years. You may have noticed that every past blog post has been accompanied by at least one photograph. In fact it is almost a requirement for me to include a photo to help tell a story or to share a landscape that you might appreciate.

The history of photography in my family dates back to somewhere around 1898 or so. My grandfather, Tad was an avid photographer, taking pictures of his adventures and travels in the Lake Louise, Banff areas of Alberta, Canada, and throughout the rest of his life. Tad passed on his love of photography to my dad, Austin, who as it seems, was never, ever, without his camera. Austin, spent a lifetime enjoying taking pictures of landscapes and of what he used to call “typical Americans” doing normal and typical things. He was a master of the candid shot, composing and framing people with their natural smile. He also rejoiced in sending lovely sailing pictures like the one at the top of this post, to his relatives in New York and New Jersey in the dead of winter! Austin then passed his love of photography to his children, and all four of us either enjoy taking pictures, or just appreciate the pictures of the past. I have fond memories of working in the darkroom with Austin, learning the important tricks of the trade like: “Get closer, Get Closer!” and of course the famous line in our house, “What are you waiting for! Push the button!”

This is Austin, with his Speed Graphix, in 1968.
But how do all these pictures from the last one hundred years or so survive? The digital world of course! When dad had leukemia in 1998, he spent months scanning Grandpa Tad’s old negatives, transcribing written notes and descriptions and creating digital files and HTML thumbnails. My brother-in-law, Dana has continued the task for the last eight years, running 35 mm rolls of film through a machine scanner, and storing the images on external hard drives. At last count, my external hard drive showed approximately 31,000 images! And Dana has advised that he is ready to upload another several thousand! Sometimes it’s hard to let these numbers sink in and truly register as to the enormity of the task that has been accomplished.
The true treasures of the collection are the scans from glass negatives dating back to around 1898. With the help of Adobe Photoshop, Austin was able to recover images from the glass that were barely discernable to the naked eye. The pic below is from a glass negative; Grandpa Tad (On the right) circa 1900.

Tad, (on the right) In Alberta, 1913.
Of course the other treasure is the photographic account of our lives. Every roll of film is a small thimble full of what life was like growing up as a family. I have included a few old photographs for you to enjoy. Back to riding and other exciting news about weddings and grandchildren next week.
My new 1968 Schwinn 3-speed. I rode this bike for years, commuting all over Goleta and Santa Barbara.

Cyclist Austin with that "Push the button" look!

1 comment:

Patsy said...

Dear Jim,
Thank you thank you for the history and the accompanying pics of G'pa Tad.
Note: the banner has been taken up by the next generation-- Daniel and his Nikon. You've seen what he took at the wedding already. I am still waiting.
Much love from your Sis, Patsy