My mother has really taken to one of my Christmas presents for her, a USB transparency scanner. She's been working her way through sixty years of Kodachrome, Agfachrome and negatives, documenting her adult life and the whole lives of her children. Her on holiday in the Alps in the 1950s, then visiting my aunt in Australia for several months in 1960. My dad, much younger and wearing a suit. A succession of projects involved with building a small farm business. Cats. Dogs. Cows. Hens. Our old tractor, sadly now long departed to the Great Cornfield in the Sky. And all our childhood holidays, from the 1960s with only my sisters as babies and toddlers through to the 1980s with me as a fractious pre-teen. I'm afraid I found them rather sad, as though they were from an age of innocence before everything went wrong. Which is all rather stupid and sentimental.
On the screen in front of us, there I was. About five or six years old, standing on the beach in a rocky Devon cove. I have very fractured memories of that particular holiday but seeing a buzzard for the first time and riding in the bucket of a farm dumper are among them. My mother sighed. "You were such a boy" she said.
I mentioned when I came out to her back in May last year that she had never suspected a thing. I was convinced she Knew Everything, it seems the real answer was in her response to the photo.
Nobody is more in the closet than a child crossdresser. Discovery, or even the slightest suspicion by my peers, would have been social suicide at that age. Thus were the seeds of my larger-than-life bloke act to conceal the girl sown.And it seems that despite a significant underage cross-dressing habit I fooled my mother completely. I guess it's not surprising, after all I was a little boy and it is easiest to go with what you see. I wanted to be one of the girls but the evidence in front of me told me I wasn't one of them, so it fooled me too.
Back to the pictures, I'm amazed at the rich colours preserved in the transparencies. Compared to the negatives which have experienced significant colour shift, the slides are vibrant and sharp, their subjects leaping across the decades. My mother is no documentary photographer but she took snapshots of her surroundings. 1950s England looks like an alternative reality, oddly familiar yet completely foreign.
I'm starting to regret not using Kodachrome while I had the chance.