Friday, November 6, 2015

Sepia Saturday: Dog Kennel Graduate

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt inspires a look at spirit pictures and double-exposed photographs. As a product of the Polaroid One Step and Kodak Instamatic age, I enjoyed fairly clear pictures for many years. That is to say, people and events are easily recognizable even if poorly framed. It wasn’t until I purchased a REAL camera requiring me to load the film myself that the potential for double-exposures emerged. And emerge they did, and always at the most inopportune time.

It was May 1982 and Baby Sister was graduating from college. Surely if any milestone should be preserved, it was this one. We brought the GOOD camera that day.

We also used the GOOD camera in July when we visited the grandparents and showed our year-old daughter her uncle’s hunting dogs. In September, we captured her joy in playing in the dirt in our little square-foot garden.

All on the same roll of film.

Double Exposed Photo
Jordan peering in at the dogs
Mary Jollette either reading the graduation program
OR praying we get good pictures
Double Exposed Photo
Mary Jollette receiving her diploma
sandwiched between views of Jordan playing in the dirt
Double Exposed Photo
It took me awhile to figure out Mary Jollette was not walking
toward the back end of some cows.
It's Jordan's legs -- a vertical shot turned horizontal --
her head is in the previous picture.
Bad photos seem to outnumber the good in the very old albums and envelopes of pictures passed down to me. They’re out of focus, faces are missing, people are too small to recognize, and dark spots and white spots obscure the intended subject. 

Sometimes I shake my head and wonder why anyone kept them.

Nancy Messier of My Ancestors and Me knows why. In looking at a group of pictures from a day spent with her daughters and grandchildren, she noticed the poor framing, the light and dark, the poor focus. Yet despite their poor quality, she kept them. After all, the point of the photo wasn’t to highlight technique. It was to capture forever those precious hours blowing bubbles and pulling kids in a wagon. With a calm recognition of how quickly children grow up, Nancy concluded that a bad picture is better than no picture.

Maybe that is something I knew but had forgotten, explaining why I carefully inserted all those double-exposed pictures into an album for safe-keeping. The pictures are a goulash of parental pride, a young woman’s accomplishment, a baby eager to pet that happy dog, a smiling face smudged with garden soil – stories flowing in and out of each other.

May and July 1982 Double Exposed Photo

But they still make my sister look like she graduated in a dog kennel.

If you visit the bloggers at Sepia Saturday twice, will you be double-exposed?

© 2015, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. I like your daughter's thought that a poor picture is better than no picture. What is also fascinating is how much cameras have changed over the years. Wonder if you can even buy a camera that takes film these days that needs to be loaded in.


  2. Love it, Wendy! Who would have thought a few 'bad' photos would tell such a good story?

  3. A warm, witty, wonderful look into the days when you could actually take double exposures. With today's high tech cameras it's just about impossible to do that anymore - and maybe that's too bad? The photos you've 'showcased' are actually works of art. I do hope, however, you did get some 'good' shots of each of the different events along with the 'art'sy' ones.

  4. I like those multiple exposures. Sort of a transparent, overlapping collage of memories.

  5. Not so bad after all, graduating in a dog kennel! Great doubles, Wendy (I struggled with the horizontal legs, but finally got it)...these are fun!

  6. I especially like your third photo - They certainly do look like cows!

  7. At least you were able to explain the photos! The 'cow' one took a few minutes to see.

  8. You are so right! Never throw away a photograph or the negatives. They may seem worthless the first time you see them but time changes all that.

  9. Interesting! It looked like cows to me too. I don't think I would have worked in out without the help of your comments :)

  10. Yay for not throwing things away! Once I got the larger view of the cow picture I could finally see the legs. lol

  11. This was good for a chuckle! Thanks!

  12. I bet you never expected that the day would arrive when you would be happy to display your double exposed pictures. They are great. Love the "cows" tool.

  13. It makes me think of that phrase "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all," because if it weren't for the bad pictures, in some cases we'd have no pictures at all, and so I agree, that's why we keep them.

    I remember the pain of getting photos back and realizing that the only pictures we had of a particular event were just horrible and to top it off, they were expensive!

  14. Nicely summed up. We hang on to them because they’ve captured that special moment that we wanted to preserve. Your examples have a charm all of their own

  15. I have many "frustrating" photos and slides but no intention of getting rid of any of them, so I know what you mean! And as you said, even as I wonder why my father or whomever kept them, I keep them. Thanks!