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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Turning a Negative into a Positive....for old times' sake

Sorry, this is my 200th post, and I feel like such an Idiom.

Why do we dig through the past? Why do I travel to strangers homes' and sift through the things they don't want, never wanted, or didn't know they had? Is it because we yearn to learn about the past so we don't repeat it, or more likely because they had the past we wanted and now we are trying to put things right?  "I should have gotten the Easy-bake oven, not Susie!" or "I never had Rock'em Sock'em Robots, but I do now!....Ahh!  All is right with the world."  I will make a quick exit from this rant by saying - "To each (their) own."  or  "Mine is not to question why, mine is but to haggle or die."

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Last weekend started with an Estate sale that was almost a drive-by. No signs, no number on the mailbox or decrepit-looking house. Garage, windows, and doors were all open, yet no activity. This made for a creepy outlook and possible unsafe scenario for my co-pilot (backseat daughter, actually). I drove past and turned around saying, "This looks like a bust, kiddo!" Driving by slowly, still with no sign of life, I took into account the trek to northern Danbury, CT and the possible bad karma by letting this one go so easily. I pulled over until we finally saw one person exit, and we were in.

I will limit the gory details to: this was a "clean-out" no questions asked, just look through and bring what you find to the price lady. This wasn't the dirtiest sale I'd ever been to, but it is not often that you are offered latex gloves just to look through the books. We moved carefully through room after room, finding the team of ladies running the sale to be upbeat, pleasant, nice to my daughter, and pricing things to move. I pulled a box of items together, a jar of coins, old papers, mysterious army helmet, (all to be blogged later) and this glass slide negative.

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I like local history, and finding a photograph is an opportunity to play detective. Where was it taken? When? Who are these people? What were they doing? Why did someone save this picture? In the dimly-lit room I could make out the outline of a man and woman. Then I held it up to a light:
My new favorite oxy-moron: A Good Negative
Whoa! That beard and those clapboards and I knew I was holding a hundred years or more in my hand. My mind began racing with how I could look this up, and hopefully develop it. I found that dry glass print negatives were invented in 1871 and became available to photographers everywhere 10 years later. They were used into the 1920's until the paper photographic equivalent replaced them. This image had too be 19th century. If I had to guess 1895-1905. It didn't take a lot of searching to find out how I could use my scanner and a lamp, and a sheet of white paper to try and create a positive image. After several tries I wasn't expecting much, but I was fortunately mistaken:

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In a word: Wow!....Wow! Wow! Wow!  Too many "wows" sorry, but I couldn't believe how easy it was to get to the finished product after having such low expectations. The search will continue to answer the eternal questions (who, what, where when, why?). I do know, thanks to my wife's keen observation, that the man is holding a comb in his left hand (I thought it was a rasp). You can almost see the white tuft of hair he collected to tame that mane of his for this picture.  If you are wondering why I do this...I know for a fact that this was headed for the dumpster...no way! Not while I'm on the hunt for a dig!

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