Monday, 21 September 2015

Old negatives, new prints

Saturday morning was good.   I was alone in the house - just me and my nearly-finished darkroom.   No running water yet but otherwise good enough to spend some quality time in now that me enlarger has its new lights.  I've been itching to print some old family negatives that Mother was smart enough to find, keep and then hide away somewhere dry for several decades until some-one took an interest.

This is a print from what I reckon is the oldest negative we have - this is my grandfather (maternal) and we reckon it was taken around 1925, when he would have been in his early 20s.  So that would make this neg about 90 years old - a bit tatty, a bit scratched, but overall not too bad.  Snapped in 1925, printed in 2015 - how good is that?!

My grandfather, c1925

He's all dressed up here, for some reason - even down to the handkerchief in his breast pocket and of course the shoes were polished to death, a là mode.  Note the cigarette in his hand - smoked Woodbine all his life, he did, until he was well into his seventies.   As a kid I can remember his fingers stained brown from them - unfiltered as they were.  But he really never had a sick day in his life and lived until he was 89, which was a right good innings.

It printed quite well (considering my lack of expertise in this field).  Just for the record, it's a 6x9 negative, and since I didn't have a 6x9 negative carrier for the DeVere I knocked one up, from cardboard, as you do.  It won't win any design awards but seemed to hold the neg flat enough long enough for me to get a print made.

Next up we have a print from a negative dating from around 1928.  This one is of my father, alongside his father - I reckon my dad is about 13 or 14 here.  His dad was born in 1880 and so he would be in his late 40s here.  You've seen an earlier version of him before (albeit in a scan of print) - right at the beginning of this blog. He was a big chap, as you can see - a butcher, by trade.  The rather impressive-looking cap he is wearing here was certainly doing a good job of keeping the sun out of his eyes, at any rate.

My Father, with his Father, c1928
The gear my father is wearing is interesting - although of course it's very formal for a young fellow compared to nowadays.  Big hand-knit woolen socks, lace boots.  And of course the short trousers and double-breasted coat, button down collar shirt and tie.  They are obviously on a beach - perhaps it was a Sunday walk, which might explain why they are all dressed up. (Ed: Quite the little Sherlock we are today, aren't we?)

This last one if of Mother, from around 1946.  That's her on the right and her brother second from left.   This snap is a bit special but also a bit sad as her brother died soon after this was taken - electrocuted, by accident.  My mother's mum, by the way, made all her clothes for her when she was growing up, including the dress she is wearing here.  I guess this wasn't uncommon in these parts for two reasons - one, there wasn't much money around and two, this being the centre of the linen trade people knew how to sew and make garments from cloth.

Mother (right) and her brother, c1946

I must admit I really enjoyed bringing these old negs back to life, so to speak - decades after they were taken.  I know I could have just scanned them and all that, but it's not the same - as you know.  Ilford Warmtone RC Pearl in multigrade, if you're interested.


  1. I really like these Michael. There's nothing like digging out some old negatives for a good session in the darkroom. I'm so looking forward to do the same.
    Great job done in preserving history mate!! Keep them coming :)

  2. Thank you Roy. And you're right - there is something very special about printing old negs, particularly when they are meaningful to you. There might be more to come - perhaps when I run out of bands the Friday slot will be devoted to The Archives.