Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Two months ago I made a photomontage based in part on my own life, (January 23, 2008). In that photomontage there is an old photograph made by my grandfather, but completed as a studio portrait. I wish I had had the wherewithal and understanding to ask all the questions I have about this photograph when my grandparents and my mother were alive. Alas, I did not, so now I can only make educated guesses as to how a photograph taken in the parlor was converted into a studio pasteboard photograph. Was that a common practice? Additionally, my mother often told me that the dog in the photograph was named Laddie and that the book of the same title was inspired by the pet she remembered from her childhood. Unfortunately I do not recall Mom telling me the author’s name, so I googled it and found several books written during the first two decades of the 20th Century with that title, the most prominent of which was by Lily M. Wesselhoeft. Neither can I find a plot for the story through Google sources, but other references to it include a listing of a copy of the book in a Website for collectors. The book is valued at seventy-five dollars. Another reference includes a brief biography of Lily M. Wesselhoeft that places her in Boston during the second decade of the 20th Century. Thus, the author appears to be located in the right time and place to have written a story inspired b y my Grandmother’s dog, Laddie. If so, the photograph would be of interest to more persons than myself. If not, I still love the picture of my “Grand mom and Laddie.”
So, what is this ramble about an old photograph for? And, what does it have to do with Art, or my art? “Well,” he said. Old photographs, and that includes those taken yesterday, or ten seconds ago, are fascinating. They are particles extracted from the stream of time, and preserved for our perusal. Even the oldest of the spotted and damaged daguerreotypes inspire us to create narratives about the persons imprisoned in their deteriorating red velvet prisons. The most ordinary photographs in this genre, “family photographs” demonstrate how people lived dressed, and behaved in a particular time and place. Whether by accident or on purpose, family photographs relay the character of those in the photograph, and they even instruct us as to the intent of the photographer at the moment the photograph was taken (perhaps beyond). The best are artistic creations with marvelous composition, and beautful lighting. This particular photograph fascinates me because of the questions it makes me ask, and of course, because it is about a person I knew and love deeply to this day. It may be of historic value, if it is about the appropriate Laddie. But most importantly, it retells the story my mother told to me about a dog and her own mother, both of whom she loved dearly.