Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Up In Flames




My old photographs can be a source of recalling my memories or they can be an excercise in frustrations. The black and white negatives were neatly numbered to match the contact sheets. Notes were written on the negative sleeves and/or the back of the contact sheets. What details I can't recall from one image are often filled in with details from another. The negatives are in connected strips of 5 or 6 frames. The 5 or 6 strips from a roll are all printed together on an 8x10 sheet of paper. Neat. Together.

Color slides were stored in boxes. Even though everything was numbered and logged into notebooks today I can't locate the books. Jumbled masses of boxes hold slides. The ones I really liked best are stored 20 to a page in (once) clear vinyl sheets. The numbers are visible, sometimes a lab stamped date, that's all. They're even seperated from the rest of the roll in the biox.

Deduction tells me that this picture was shot during the year that Stephanie and I lived in New Bedford. Deduction tells me that it must have been shot with my 35mm f/1.8 Canon lens on my Leica III-f body, which was "black dial" and equipped with a Leicavit trigger rapid winder. That was the camera I used then. The going price of a used Leicavit in 1965 was about $25.

But Todd was the one who looked over the vinyl pages that I hadn't looked at in 30 years. He's the one who said "This one looks interesting!" He's the one who said "I can't wait to hear the story that goes with this picture!" My mind came up blank. Maybe if I had the rest of the shoot, the other photographs I took that afternoon? Perhaps if I could locate the notebook? Would my ex-wife Stephanie remember if I emailed the photo to her? Then slowly, bubbling up out of the murk in my mind, details started to come together.

We'd spent our first year together living in Boston, then spent a year in my hometown of New Bedford before moving to Miami at the behest of my mother. This was New Bedford. I/we had met a woman, at an art show I think. Her name was Barbara, she had a couple of young sons and a husband. Harold? That's the name that seems like it wants to surface and become definitive, but I'm not positive. We became friends, and I took this photo in their backyard. It was another world 40 years ago. The men barbequed outside while the women stayed in the kitchen cooking beans and sweet corn, and making salad, and maybe even baking a cake.

Now for the strange twist. For reasons long forgotten, even back then, my family had a spat of some sort, and one faction stopped talking with another. This was before I was born, long before. Over time as Barbara and I talked about this one and that one, distant relations we'd met at one time or another, and it became apparent that she and I were second cousins. We were a couple years apart (she's older) but had grown up within the same Jewish community for all those years and never knew we were related. My mother confirmed the relation. Then Stephanie and I moved to Miami, rarely ventured back to New Bedford, and it's been at least 35 years since I've been in touch with my cousins. Easy come, easy go.

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