I was a lonely teenager who spent too much time wandering around the streets of Edinburgh taking photographs with my old Hanimex Halina camera of the historic buildings, monuments, and busy streets thronged with people busy with some unknown purpose. I was trying to fix in black & white and color how exactly I fitted in to all of this—other than by accident of birth.
When I handed in the roll of film to get developed, I would wait three days to a week for the magic to be done and a slim paper wallet filled photographs returned to me. I wanted the finished results to be a starting point for stories which I could claim as my own. A lot of the time, I wondered why I’d bothered in the first place as the pictures were little more than plain representations of what already existed—the theatrical backdrops against which we all perform. That’s possibly why I often preferred the pictures that came back with a quality control label attached that stated the image was blurred, out of focus, subject to close to camera, camera shake, or were diagnosed with red/yellow overall cast to print, or film exposed under tungsten light or early morning/late afternoon sunlight, or the warning: fluorescent lights give prints a yellow/green cast. These were far more appealing as they offered a starting point to stories that were more to do with imagination than biography.
“Bad” photographs, that is pictures poorly framed, blurred by movement, or over exposed by light, are sometimes like the best illustrations to weird tales of horror and nightmare. The woman who happily sat in her garden waiting for her picture to be taken oblivious of the small approaching beast, its flash of teeth and claws, ready to pounce and devour. Or, the family of monstrous shapeshifters captured unraveling in front of the camera. Or the demon held proudly aloft in its mother’s arms burning with the flames of Hell. Or, the strange Lovecraftian light moving purposefully across the creased waters of a lake. Perhaps the following selection of bad vintage photographs will inspire your imagination too?
Via La boite verte.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Black holes: Censorship’s handiwork creates eerie photographs
‘Ghosts’ photobomb portraits of their loved ones