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Old Film:: Lady with a Saint Bernard (1930s)

I absolutely love this photograph of a lady with a Saint Bernard and might even get it printed at some point and hung on my office wall. Even better would be to hand print it. This photograph is scanned from a 6cm x 9cm film negative made by my grandmother Elvie Ruth Bonner (1901-1986). My grandmother had two brothers – Rupert Bonner (1900-1981) and Trevor (1913-). She had three sisters – Cora (1903-1917), Hazel (1906-1987) and Ivy (1910-1987). My grandmother said Trevor owned such a dog. But at this point I’m not sure who exactly this photograph captures except they are family and that it’s almost certainly in Tasmania.

lady beside an old car with a St Bernard dog

So here are the things I love about this particular photograph and you can agree or disagree because it’s entirely subjective.

I love white skies and that might be seen as a flaw but I love the way white skies add shape to a picture. I imagine such pictures to be like pages on pop-up books, for some reason. My penchant for the white sky creeps into my own photography (choosing to shoot Tri-X 400 on a TMAX 100 day, for example).

The list isn’t short so here goes. I like that there are three main objects (car, lady, dog) facing along different axes. The car to the bottom left corner, the lady to the front facing forward. The dog on a plane from right to left. The depth of field and the angle of the street and houses in the background are also positive attributes. The car and background captures the era; I also like that the entire number plate is in there and with effort could be tracked down for further interest.

But mostly I love that this is a scan of a family film negative from as long as eighty years ago. It’s lived in envelopes in cupboards, mailed around the country as people passed away and finally arrived in at least reasonable condition, regardless of the hardships, on my doorstep via my older sister. This negative probably lived through the hard life of the working camps in the 1940s and 1950s in Tasmania’s South West. It probably lived at George Town and then Waverly in Launceston. And I can only wonder at the family hands and eyes that have fondled it out of curiosity.

If anybody asks me what the fascination with shooting film is about then this is the exact negative I can point towards. This story will be next to impossible using digital technologies.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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