Lost Zimbabwe images from way back – a lot of retouching brings back 22 damaged old negatives

22 images http://philipchudy.com/galleries/Scans_legacy_Sept2017/#1

I was probably the only person shooting images such as these in large format anywhere in Central/Southern Africa at the time.

My hackles rise when in interviews the question arises: “if you had to do it all over again what would you do differently?”, and the inevitable answer is “I wouldn’t change a thing”.

Of course, I know it is pointless getting angry because the question is unreal and extends well beyond the armchair void offered by that wonderful word ‘hypothetical’.

With absolutely nothing tangible upon which to counter this self-satisfied logic it would seem that all attempts to contradict it would be futile, but I can’t help thinking: “you idiots – you had the benefit of one great and exciting life and yet your curiosity and sense of adventure is so weak, you would not want to do anything with your lives other than that which you have done”. If a genie suddenly popped out of a city drain and (bam!) offered you such a miracle deal, you would have us believe you would tell him to go screw himself. And meantime, you are so impervious to the wider context behind the question that – exposed in full view of television, you are even proud to declare your complacency’.

Well, one thing I can definitely attest to is my own feelings when reviewing photos shot in the distant past which seemed so promising when in the field but which disappointed in the darkroom when one discovered that they were damaged and unprintable. There is no way that I would ‘want to do all that over again’. But one put that out of one’s mind because after all, who was offering?

And so years later with the advantage of digital imaging and a lot of retouching experience suddenly, a whiff of genie comes out of the bottle and right there is the chance to right a wrong which one never thought would happen. And thereafter to explore a relationship with lost images.

This recent batch of mixed images were all dramatically restored and whether or not they are ‘good photos’ they have already rewarded me with a sense of satisfaction and a sense of having cheated the inevitable by seeing them in ‘presentable form’ http://philipchudy.com/galleries/Scans_legacy_Sept2017/#1

Large format was ideal for capturing large groups.

Not all of them were totally forgotten. A few of them were ones whose memory is suffused with no small measure of regret, because ‘at the time’ I had a hunch that they would have had merit. But sorry – no one would ever be shown them.

Then again, a couple would have been small ‘discoveries’ back in the dark room. But because they were damaged I never even bothered to make contact prints. All of this batch required hours of retouching and in order to do that, I have had to suspend all sense of value.

You simply cannot find motivation and devote a lot of time to an image which one thinks is inferior to others already in the portfolio. It takes me quite a while, living with an image before I make up my mind whether I think it is good or not. So that is where I am.

Almost all the images in this collection were shot in remote back end of nowhere in locations Zimbabwe including the Kalahari Desert.

All the images in this selection were shot on 4×5” or 5×7” sheet film. Later I shot on 8×10” film. As far as I know, I was and probably still am the only person to have shot natural subjects ‘out of a studio’ with these larger formats in anywhere central Africa.

In the days of grainy small format, rich detail contributed to a sense of being there

And there is the rub: I did not say why some negatives were summarily thrown on the rejects pile. They were found to be partly fogged, or scratched, or suffused with dust shadows. And all of this came from the difficult circumstances under which I had to load and unload the film holders. Shooting in primitive conditions it was very difficult to keep the film changing bags perfectly clean and changing film in the intense heat and incredible dryness often meant sweat on the fingers would marr the surface of the film or static attract dust.

That was the price of trying to bring back large format images of the back ends of nowhere. I paid the price with lost images and here, albeit, with hours of restoration, I am being repaid.

Many more Zimbabwe images can be seen on my fine art site www.philipchudyfineart.com


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