Slideshows

30Jan12

Kent, circa 1962

The dusty brilliance and the whirring fan of the projector meant another screening of the family silver: a son et lumière slideshow in suburbia.

On Saturday nights throughout my early childhood, the new Kodachromes straight out of their yellow boxes were each inserted into the 80-slot tray, a horizontal Ferris wheel that lay on the top of the Kodak Carousel.

As magical as shadow puppets in a kampong clearing, we sat wide-eyed as the still images blinked through their repertoire. There were giggles and I think quiet tears too in the darkness, broken too often by the awful clunk of a cardboard mount as it jammed half way into the breech of the Stuttgart-made Typ 2 Dia-Magazin. We groaned as the pelmet lights returned us to bright reality before the offending transparency was removed from the slot near the projector’s hot bulb like the surgical extraction of a throbbing molar.

As amateur snapshots destined for the album we can see souvenirs of a day out – hurriedly over-centred frames taken with subjects conscious of another portrait. And yet there are also accidental moments of reportage where outsiders creep into the edges of pictures, allowing us to witness a fleeting moment of their earthly existence. They pass into the picture and out the other side, unaware of their permanent presence making it on to a tiny rectangle of colour Kodak emulsion.

Decades on, I have no recollection of my father making the hundreds of pictures on a borrowed camera, only of the slides that he obsessively stored and showed to us, now scorched into my earliest memories. They became an instant reminder of what we had done that summer; where we went on holiday and how our aunties and uncles and then in turn, our dear parents looked before they too became ill and passed on.

As we too got older these pictures of our former selves looked at first acutely embarrassing but as they accumulated a nostalgia that only adults can grasp, they took on a special place in our fading recollections of the places we went to, of the names of those alongside us in the nearby play park, of our self-beliefs we then thought absolute.

As we pass these pictures on, their value decreases down the generations: Our children’s children will have but a vague interest in these once-precious people looking at the camera, their struggles or triumphs not remotely significant to those in the post-Google image bling era.

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