Friday, April 03, 2009

The Eternal Dancer

My camera is dated 1913, but the actual production year is from 1917, Rochester, N.Y. People might have used the camera for many years and might have recorded any number of lives, maybe even lives still lived today. We know, in a way, that anything the camera records is gone long ago, that everything is changed and gone for good but the image of what was. The camera itself is an image of what was. I have it in my living room a a reminder of times gone. I have it because it's beautiful. I have pictures from 1917 of my grandmother dancing. She was beautiful. The pictures I have of her might have been taken with a camera like this one.
No. 1A (Autographic) Kodak Jr.
[1914 - 1927]The 1A Autographic Kodak Jr. folding camera was typical of Kodak folding cameras of the time. The camera body is wooden. Folding front and removable back are metal while the external covering and bellows are leather....

It used Kodak Autographic Film which permitted a message to be written on the film between frames. The spool was wound with a layer of carbon paper between the film and thin red backing paper. After taking a photograph the user would open up the small door on the back of the camera (fig.1) and using the provided stylus inscribe a brief note. Pressure of the stylus on the backing paper transferred the carbon to the backing paper. The user then held the camera back to the light for a moment and light passing through would image the message on the film. Typical of many antique cameras, aperture settings are marked in a series of numbers....

I look into the view-finder but I never see my grandmother in there. It must have been a different camera after all. Nevertheless, someone has her image as fresh and alive as she was close to a hundred year ago. That would be me.
This would be W.B. Yeats, "Among Schoolchildren."

Stanza Vlll

Labour is blossoming or dancing where
The body is not bruised to pleasure soul.
Nor beauty born out of its own despair,
Nor blear-eyed wisdom out of midnight oil.
O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer,
Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

-- W. B. Yeats

My grandmother would be the dancer in the photographs on my wall, the beautiful girl dancing in my memory.

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