My late husband, John, loved photography. He had a good camera in the days when the newest phones were cordless but on a landline and cameras needed to be loaded with film. When we moved here he set up a darkroom in the loft to develop black and white images but sent colour ones off for processing. I was happy to help, happy to go out with him and stand around while he set everything up, happy to let him spend on equipment but I never really understood the fascination of ‘f stops’ and ‘exposures’.
Then 10 years ago he died and left hundreds – literally hundreds!, probably thousands – of his photos – all in the form of slides. What can you do with slides? Would I really put up the folding screen which was torn and would have to be replaced, then set up the projector and fiddle about stacking books under its feet to get the picture on the screen and twiddle the focus….? I piled the whole lot into a blanket chest and got on with more urgent things.
Then about 3 years ago I asked my daughter to help me sort through them. We turfed all the boxes out on the bedroom floor and agreed it was time to be ruthless. If we liked the picture or it was of someone we knew it would stay. Everything else would go. If there were two of the same scene or very similar we would keep only the best one. Even with two of us and no messing about it took all afternoon. We got it down to 30 or so. We put those back in the chest. Neither of us could face doing any more with them!
Time passed. Obviously slides were useless to me. If I was going to keep the photos they had to be turned into some more accessible form.
Then I culled our vast collection of books putting the ones I was pretty sure I didn’t want to keep into the loft just in case I changed my mind ( if you missed it you can read about it here https://goingbattyinwales.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/scrappy-storage-of-possible-scrap) and took down the shelves. That left a blank wall with marks where the brackets had been but not to worry – I wanted to redecorate anyway!
The resulting blank white wall looked rather bare! What it needed were some pictures. All I had to do was get the slides turned into something I could hang up. I discovered that the Camera Center in Carmarthen could do the job. After tracking them down to a redundant chapel behind the market I took my slides in and asked them to digitise them and store them on a disc so I could see them on the laptop and decide what I wanted to do with them next. That was a few days before lockdown last March and it was only when my hairdressers reopened that I ventured into town and collected them.
More time passed while I looked at them, thought about which ones I wanted printed and what size each should be. I was concerned that the wall would become a shrine to John so I added a few of my own photos to the disc. I went back into the Camera Center with the disc and a list. And we locked down again! Eventually I was able to collect the prints. Now all I needed were frames.
The wall, like almost all the ones in this house is wonky not flat and the ceiling slopes and swoops and bows. A regular array of identical frames would look drunk! So I needed a variety of styles in 2 sizes. Bargain Box in Newcastle Emlyn has a good selection of inexpensive ones. The lady on the till was a bit surprised when I bought 20!
Then it was Christmas and I had decorations up. And then, as I have told you I lost my nerve. Deciding how to arrange them felt too much of a challenge. Getting the drill out and making holes in the wall felt scary. What if I didn’t like the result? What if I made holes in the wrong places? What if it was all a big mistake and I had wasted my money?
The afternoon before I took all the decorations down, knowing the place would look bare and unloved without them, I gave myself another good telling off and fetched the drill from the workshop. I measured the wall, marked the space on the bedroom carpet and laid out the frames. Then started putting pictures in the smaller ones. When I got to the bigger ones I discovered that my occasional numerical dyslexia had struck again – they were a size too big for the photos!
I very nearly panicked and put everything back in the blanket chest! However a visit to Amazon found me a box of mounts which would solve the problem and they were delivered next day. Everything was laid out on the floor again, the pictures framed and photos of the layout taken so I could follow it to drill my holes.
By the end of the afternoon they were up. The art world will not be in raptures. They are competent photos of nice scenes which I recognise.
Why didn’t I do it ages ago?