Log in

No account? Create an account
10 September 2007 @ 04:53 am
It's late at night. I'm sorting Vonne's photographs.

Not photographs, really. I'm sitting among a life. Every surface around me is covered in them. Hundreds of them. Photos of people, parties, cats, dessert plates, exotic destinations. Mostly of people. Vonne liked to be in photographs, and to take photos of other people.

Most of them are happy-snaps. Not many are works of photographic art. Here and there a great one surfaces, mostly of Vonne rather than by her. Despite not being close to any standard template of beauty, she was a ridiculous photogenic hottie.

Photos of Eve, her mother. I don't think Eve ever really walked. Early photos propped on horses and fences and cane chairs, sometimes hobbling about in leg braces and crutches. Later photos in wheelchairs, and eventually bedridden. Eve's tenants, the Kans, in all her photos, their kids surrounding her like a very small crayon-clutching Mongol horde.

Photos of Vonne playing dressups in the garden as a child. Obligatory bridesmaids' photos. My grandfather Peter's photos of Europe, every monument with a tiny Vonne in the foreground. Photos of Vonne and JoB, Dorothy, Hugh, assorted step-children and step-grand-spawn. Whole families she knew and loved that I never really got a handle on. Friends, neighbours. All her different houses lovingly documented. All the parties she threw. She threw a mean party. Watching all her furniture and objets drift from place to place, house to house, as she got bored and redecorated. Adventures to exotic destinations documented for posterity.

Early black-and-white pictures drift into washed-out colour. Become bright and glossy. Sizes get bigger and are standardised. Eventually digital prints start creeping in. The subject matter is the same.

Vonne bursts out of photos. You can hear her laugh in the pictures, her head thrown back. You can see her looking out at you, with that mischief-on-my-mind gleam in her eye. She's holding a glass, or a cigarette, or a whole wine-bottle, or an upside-down cat. Photos of her at my aunt and uncle's wedding, dancing on a table. Leaning with glee on someone else's vintage car. Vonne had the bearing of a silent movie star and a foxy smile.

People who met Vonne inevitably fell in love with her, her shrieks, her alarmingly blunt questions, her delight in throwing swearwords down on the table like a roast bird at Christmas in her beautifully elocuted throaty voice. She'd listen to you intently for four minutes and nod sympathetically as you waffled about your troubles, then with great dignity tell you to shut up and pull your thumb out. No tradesperson, shop assistant, call-centre employee or other hapless service industry person could escape her steamroller charm. She had strings of them that followed her round, like ducklings. Everyone had arguments with her, deeply personal disagreements and feuds, but it was impossible to stay angry. You found yourself rejoining the queue of ducklings without even noticing.

Vonne might be gone, but these photographs are little snippets of her soul. A collection of images of her and of the things she loved. And I will scan them all, no matter how long it takes.

aedunaaeduna on September 9th, 2007 09:51 pm (UTC)
I've been meaning to make time to go visit my grandmother for much the same reason, but to scan them while she can stil tell me who people are, where they were, etc.

But its a huge job, and I am still trying to find a way that doesn't involve putting each shot on a scanner and having to fiddle.
Nicole: leafy sea dragonmatcha_pocky on September 10th, 2007 02:02 pm (UTC)
Do it. For god's sake, do it now.

Old photos are only interesting to scions, unless the people or places involved are historically interesting and therefore recognisable. If you, the scion, don't know who these people are, the photos become meaningless and end up in a shoebox at a fleamarket at two for $1.

I'm going the scanner and fiddling option, but maybe if you just want to quickly take records and leave the fiddling for someone else, just photographs of the photographs? Much quicker.
aeduna: cemetaryaeduna on September 10th, 2007 11:09 pm (UTC)
I have a certain amount of interest in dead folks, having done the whole family-stalking thing. So photos of them have value to me at least. If you can actually get the information about the photos associated with them, they also have more value than just "who's that? I think its mum, but it might be her sister. Or aunt. or Grandmother".

hmmmmm. Photos of photos might be a bit faster, if I can get the right conditions. I don't mind processing them, its just the "argh, its sideways by 1 degree" factor of glass scanners.
Meleemeleah on September 9th, 2007 11:33 pm (UTC)
Beautiful post, just wonderful. Can we see more photos?

Nicole: mookiematcha_pocky on September 10th, 2007 02:03 pm (UTC)
Will put up some more when the initial slew of four-a-page scans is snipped and labelled. Thinking of starting her a flickr account of her own :)
morgan303morgan303 on September 10th, 2007 01:55 am (UTC)
What a beautiful post. And what a thoroughly beautiful description of her.
My mother always said that there were no photos of my Dad in existence. I've no idea why because after he died my sister and I found hundreds of them, some from the 20s and 30s. And we wished so hard we could have asked him to tell us about each one.
Nicole: mookiematcha_pocky on September 10th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC)
Photos are a funny thing. People looking at old photos have odd reactions to them, they don't quite process them the way they'd process a toaster or a piece of music or a painting. The only thing that generates the same reaction is smells. One is actively wrenched back to other times, places, people and it takes a minute for consciousness to resurface, and coherence levels take a beating while dusty neurons start firing up again.

My aunt started flipping madly through the photos without actually vocalising anything beyond "Oh, that's... and that's Klaus, he used to live in... oh and the dog! Smerd! I remember Smerd!*... oh and that was the house at Strathbogie..." Whose house? Whose dog? Who's Klaus? Not a chance.

* they did have a dog named Smerd :) Big smooth-looking smiley labradorish-weimeraner-pointer thing. I now covet a dog named Smerd.
Da Wild Onevirtual_munkee on September 10th, 2007 11:53 am (UTC)
fantastic stuff! it is wonderful you are taking the time to look at, appreciate, and even scan photos/snapshots from another life. even though you may not know everyone in it, the stories that you make up in your mind about that captured moment can be really amazing/insightful, and sometimes even true.

my dad has a pile of slides and photos from the last 40 years he has been meaning to scan, plus we had some wikkid photos of our family growing up. when my mom died, i stayed up for three nites scanning photos of her, of us with her, with friends and family and strangers. it was such an amazing yet melancholy process, but we all benefited from sitting around, looking at photos and telling stories. and now i have a fantastic slideshow to remember her by.
Nicole: mookiematcha_pocky on September 10th, 2007 02:23 pm (UTC)
I never did much with photos of my mother. She had this pasted-on smile for cameras, and the process of taking a photo of her sent her into this air-traffic-controller-slash-drill-seargeant mode ("No! Left! Adjust the aperture!") that kind of takes the shine off the memories. A panoramic picture of her life is probably better made of clothes and objects and art than of photos.

Actually, I take that back. My mother was a heritage architect, and about a third of all the family film rolls were occupied by photos of rising damp, mould, peeling wallpaper, termites et cetera. Maybe I could scan a few of those for posterity :)