Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Susan, July 1965

This shot is from a box of very clean and undamaged but faded slides marked July 1965. It looks like they may have been taken on an Armstrong family camping trip to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. These slides are 3M "Dynachrome" film, which I've never heard of -- probably because it wasn't very good!

The uncorrected colors look pretty weak:

But fortunately they have faded in a relatively uniform way; it isn't one of the difficult cases where there is no cyan left, or the slide has become incredibly dark so that you can't get enough light through it for a good scan. All the colors can have their saturation boosted rather dramatically, and with a little tweaking the original film's inability to properly register colors actually becomes a strength, as you get some artistic blending of colors. Here is my attempt at restoring the colors:

I kept thinking I had the skin tone wrong, because her cheeks look pink. Then I realized she actually has a bit of a sunburn in this photo! You can see at the base of her neck that she must have been outdoors too long.

I think this is a great picture; it shows a Susan who has the beauty of her youth but at the same time the graying hair and laugh lines that hint at the older Susan. It has an ageless quality, just like she did. It is how I remember her.

Who took this photo? It was probably either my grandfather, Richard Armstrong, or my father, Richard Potts. I think both of them were on that trip. It is hard to know how carefully staged and planned the shot was; it could have been relatively spontaneous. Some of my best shots show up without planning.

I could try to make the colors in the shot more "accurate," but this shot looks like it was taken in late-afternoon sun, perhaps even opposite a sunset, in a partially shaded environment, with a lot of reflected or filtered light. It's hard to know just what "accurate" would mean. But I kind of like the colors the way I have them here. It reminds me of one of my favorite photos of Veronica here. That shot initially appears to be way too yellow, but the color is accurate; it was taken on late summer afternoon and the light had that same quality to the naked eye.

Interestingly, I was just looking at some of the work of a photographer who buys up expired slide stock for the express purposes of getting interesting effects like this. And some photographers (including my friend Art) have long been exploring the "low fi" effects available by using inexpensive digital cameras and the various striking, but inaccurate, images that they produce.

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