Cameras have been on my mind recently, and when I look through old family photographs I think how lucky we now are in this digital age. Taking photographs is easy, effortless and with the press of button or touch screen can be sent to others or printed out. We can use a range of programmes to manipulate them on our computer, tweaking colours, sharpening images, even airbrushing things or people unwanted. Who says the camera never lies! It may have been true at one time, but no longer.
Nowadays we rarely think twice before we take a photograph, nor do we limit ourselves to the number of shots taken. My mode of action is to take plenty and hope that out of these I’ll surely have a reasonable shot. Before the digital age this usually involved carrying around numerous spools of film, preferably those that took twenty four or thirty six photos (eight was at one time the norm). So lots of hiding in the lee of bushes or crouched beneath jackets to exclude light while the film in the camera was changed. Then there was the processing — and the mounting cost of all your enthusiastic efforts.
I had an uncle who was into processing his own films, black and white of course. His bathroom would be littered with trays and jars of chemicals, while across the bath snakes of film would writhe, clothes-pegged from a length of string. His enthusiasm was obvious, though his never-ending technical talk of film speeds and exposures caused eyes to roll ceiling-wards with mutters of Here we go again!
With films processed, the yellow envelope was rifled, its contents shown to relatives and friends, then stuck at the back of a drawer or cupboard. Scanners opened up new possibilities. You could scan and download photos to your computer to actually do something with them. Cheers!
Inheritance of an ancient cine projector and films owned by an uncle who spent many years in India in the 1930s and 1940s, means we have a trove of moving images of an era long gone. Occasionally we drag out the ancient projector and set it up, select a film and then watch the small square format of images which look as if someone off-camera had long hair that had blown across the scene being filmed. Numerous stops as the film jams and burns, or breaks from brittleness. But somehow that only adds to the sense of being an onlooker, an interloper in history.
Now it’s so easy. And instead of stiff figures with rigid smiles, their poses held for ages until captured on a glass plate, we now oooh! and aaah!, laugh and giggle at what we capture with camera, phone, iPad or camcorder. Family historians of the future certainly aren’t going to be at a loss for images to capture our era.