Personal History Machine: Scanning the Old Negative

In 1971 a young couple and friend dine at the Gate House of Cobbs Hill Reservoir, Rochester, NY.

Cobbs-Hill-Resevoir.jpg

I had recently begun my first tour of duty at George Eastman House, Rochester’s museum of photography, and was encouraged by example to take up the view camera. I remember thinking that these machines earned their name from the necessity of hauling their lumpy bulk up to some proper view or vista prior to the elaborate procedures of assembly and exposure. Unexpectedly, I found that my fussy ceremony of bellows and meters made it easier for me to insinuate myself with human subjects. What could be less surreptitious? Or, as it developed, more personally invasive than the probing resolution of a camera with a sharp lens and large film? Forty-two years on, I can scan such negatives, as would an astronomer checking her plates for planetary motion. Here, progress is marked only by pull-ring tabs for beer and soda (and possibly the frequency of cigarettes – three for three).

But the human narrative: A sliver of an amused buddy, his smiling eye; the drinking man gesturing to his crotch split to resemble a vulva; and the dinner companion, removed and in thought, her gaze averted – Remains current.

 
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