Sunday, 6 March 2011

Boy in Kodachrome

    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.


  1. My therapist asked me to bring some pictures of my childhood. It was interesting going through all of the old pictures that I had not seen in years.

    I really want to get a scanner that can do medium format negatives so that I can get all of my old shots into the computer.

    I hope that you managed to at least remember the good times.


  2. Photographs made with an innocent eye record an honest past which the driven documentary photographers miss.

    I have a box of old 8mm movies taken by my father but the cost of transfer just to satisfy my curiosity has always seemed to great.

    Wish I had a slave mother to scan all my old negs and trannies.

    Caroline xxx

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  4. If you haven't got a suitable scanner you can take photographs of your photographs if you do it properly. I did that with a couple of mine and then saved them on my pc. They look fine to me.
    I love looking at old photographs and remembering those times myself, well back to the late forties anyhow. I would love to be back in those days but as the person I am now of course! I wrote a post on my blog recently about old photographs and how they influence my thoughts.
    By the way Jenny, little boys are notorious and quite adept at hiding their 'secrets' from those around them. I was very good at that too. Gosh to think I could have been exposed at any time and the subsequent consequences would have been an absolute nightmare to endure. On reflection, I think I got lucky!

    Shirley Anne xxx

  5. I should have written 'The King's Speech'.....You can always delete one....sorry

    Shirley Anne xxx

  6. Morning everyone,
    My mother has a load of 120 roll film negatives going back to the 1940s for which I need to find a flatbed transparency scanner, so Stace you aren't the only one. I considered making a simple projector and then photographing the result as Shirley Anne suggests.
    The candid nature of the unposed snapshots can deliver some gems. She has a 1950s picture of Portobello Road street market - probably on 828 roll film, it's a square slide - which really gives the feeling of another age. All the men are wearing suits while the women are all wearing floral dresses. The shops lack modern graphics and the buildings have that tired look of a city pre-Clean Air Act. Fantastic stuff!

  7. Nobody is more in the closet than a child crossdresser.

    Oh, I can relate to this!

    I have one of those USB transparency thingies. Haven't tried it yet. Glad to know it works well. Now, could you just take a little side trip over to my place and show me how to use it, Jenny?

    Calie xxx

  8. If my mother can use it then I'm sure you'll have no problems! :)