Reload the Negatives: Scanning Angels, Camels and Gods

I am still turning up keepers from the archives of 35mm film negatives that I have dutifully kept in sleeves; I probably have twelve years worth of my life sitting in that binder, which is weird. The first image is of an angel whose wings have been clipped. When I first travelled to New Orleans I had desperately wanted creepy, moody graveyard photographs, but captured nothing…at least that is what I thought. How strange to discover six years later that I had one that I actually like quite a bit. If I had not kept the negatives or if I had shot digital, then I wonder where this photo could be found.

I love the South. Whether it is New Orleans or Atlanta or Houston, I have always felt at home among the people there. Going much further south found me at the bottom of Egypt at the temple of Abu Simbel. Abu Simbel had been another childhood dream, as a friend’s father had engravings showing the re-discovery of the temple in 1817. I was mesmerized during my visit to the temple, so much so that I had my bicep tattooed with the name of Ramses in a hieroglyph just as each of these giant statues have. Like the angel, I was certain that I held no useable negatives and that all of my photographs were either scratched of with terrible framing.

In Jordan, V. and I walked through the ruins of Petra. Like all of the Middle East in June, it was scalding and blinding throughout the day. While the amphitheatre is carved out of the pink mountainside, I prefer the image in black and white, as it better demonstrates the contrasts of shadow and relief.

The final image was taken from my camel overlooking a monastery or castle of some type. I had dreamed of riding a camel, and this was not to be my last ride on one of these infernal beasts. I had been supposed to ride one in India, but monsoon storms kept me out of the desert near the border of Pakistan. This was a fun ride. Unlike in the Sahara, I had recovered from my illness on the Nile and was ready to get out of the felucca boat I had been in. These poor guides must have thought us idiots to be paying for a camel ride through the desert; we were, in our fashion.

Perhaps it is the snow on the ground or that I have no major adventures planned for the next few months, but I have been finding solace in looking back on my adventures with new eyes and a patient memory. Film provides an archival way to revisit our past lives. We can do it with the shoebox of snapshots, but the film negative gives me a way to bring my memories into a tangible, digital medium that allows me to put my memories back together. When I finish with these scans, then I will print a book to keep and that I can revisit when I am old and grey.

Readers may not have noticed, but Atlanta-based photographer and blog-presence par excellence, Zack Arias, commented on my previous blog today. All I can say is that I was really thrilled – to have a person of his status in the photography community notice a mention of him in the text of my blog was never an honour I thought would randomly happen. Anyway, that made my day, and the reshoot of the glass bowls, go by like a banana split on the Fourth of July.


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