Thursday, April 12, 2012

graphite archive


"I've got to feel the pencil
and see the words
at the end of the pencil."

~ William Faulkner

When work impresses itself as encouragement upon daily life, extraordinary momentum and renewed energy manifest to merge both spheres. Through the occasions during which vocation and avocation intertwine, various aspects of life provide for cross-referenced appreciation. My years in commercial photography and printing helped me to become proficient at cooking and baking. The study of history and philosophy, combined with the active pursuit of the spiritual life, inspired the practice of journaling. By writing the adventures of personal journeys and the business of the quotidian, I’m better able to perceive as an archivist.

A current project permits me to play many of my cultivated notes. Just over two years ago, I was called upon to organize, index, and preserve seventy years worth of negatives produced by a local newspaper. The publisher’s building was being emptied and the sub-basement’s contents included dozens of rusted file cabinets stuffed with photographic negatives- which were being destined for a refuse smelter. Providentially, I took on the project and the experience has been as wonderful as it has been mountainous. The collection comprises hundreds of thousands of celluloid and acetate images- an incomparable treasure trove of regional images- and I’ve already identified many thousands of places, events, institutions, and individuals.

The best way to deal with this massive amount of unorganized and unindexed material has been for me to review each single piece of film, while taking a macro approach regarding descriptive depth and preservation. By doing this, I’ve been living the collection in numerous ways and at many levels. My personal memories are being bolstered by illustrative artifacts that are much older than I am, and the continuum has been blending into my own. Throughout this continuing and painstaking process, I’ve been trying to communicate the immense joy of this large project to those around me that cringe at the prospect of the daunting tedium of commandeering many hundreds of linear feet of negative images without accompanying prints. I consider it an honor and a privilege to be conserving this photographic history of my home. From the beginning, it’s been clear to me that I’ve been discovering more than mere imagery. Being a process in progress, only small portions have been made available, and a growing number of individuals have already been blessed by these thin slices of time, and new anecdotes come to me by the week. There are many stories, even now at these early stages, and I try to write as many as possible in my journal.


In the process of reviewing each negative, assessing physical condition and date, I’ve seen (and indexed) a great many unusual images. When newspapers were more local in their production and coverage, there was a strikingly personal touch to the content. Between the 1930s and early-1950s, I started to take note of a few sensitively composed images of people writing, even indicating the pencil-writers in my spreadsheet index. This cast of characters is at school, at work, at home, and outside. Here are a few of the gems (from the '30s - '80s, so far) with hopes that you’ll find some encouragement to write your days and journeys. Enjoy the photographs which are little worlds that now visit ours, and enjoy the continuum in which each of us participate.

gearing up

Above: Getting ready to do serious work requires just the right pencil.
Below: Enthusiastic customers at Grant's Department Store.


This young writer would surely have blogged about such a grand collection!

at school

Above: Thinking about what to write meant looking up, not down into an electronic device.
Below: Comparing notes.




at work

Above: A uniquely pencil-writer's gesture is to keep the instrument at the ready- over an ear.


Above: A graphic designer wields the graphite.
Below: Pencilling orders at the malt shop.




Sharp points for accounting (above)
and for the Maine State Legislature (below).


wandering and musing


Above: Ideas are afoot on the grocery store stoop.
Below: Writer aperch in a cushioned jump-seat!


What's in your pencil box?



Anonymous said...

Wow! These are wonderful, evocative images. And I'm struck by the technical quality of them, too. Thanks. And we're ready for more.
== Michael Höhne

Michael Moeller said...

Wonderful impressions!! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting and it makes me wonder what is going to happen to the art of writing in our tech-no generation. Where are all the poets and writers? What has become of the written word?

ART said...

How lucky we are to have you spearheading the Negative project, thanks...La Vie Graphite !!!!!!

Bill M said...

Very excellent photos! Too bad we may never see 50 year or older photos any longer since no one wants to do real photography and even if digital images are printed longevity is nowhere close to the old transparencies and printed photos.

Richard P said...

These are delightful images. I'm impressed with your dedication and discriminating eye.

crofter said...

Great post!!!

Kevin said...

Fantastic post, and look at the generations represented by the humble pencil. I was looking for specific pencils in the photos but alas it is difficult to identify particular pencils in black and white. More of this please.