December 27, 2013

The Women of Tunisia

During World War Two, my father served on a destroyer escort. His ship made stops in numerous ports around the world. Fortunately my father kept a photo journal of this trip, documenting life on board the ship, as well as what he saw in each port. I’ve always loved black and white photography and I was fascinated by the discovery of my father’s journal three years ago. What pleased me were the numerous well composed pictures that were little gems of life in Europe and North Africa during the war years. My father took them with an artist’s eye.

Unfortunately these photos were in very bad repair. There may have been dust on the lens or on the negatives because the photos were all snow storms of little white dots and full of scratches. Or perhaps they were just not appreciated at the time and as a consequence not well preserved.

One of the tasks I set myself for the upcoming year was to restore at least a sampling of these photos and print them on archival paper. This is a truly time consuming labor of love but I think will be worth the effort. It may even be somewhat therapeutic to work meticulously on these photographs, removing the dots and scratches in what is most assuredly glacial progress.

The photographs I have been working on are if TIFF files so the jpg printed above is in the unrestored condition. But the gist of the composition can certainly be gleaned from it. The photograph was taken in Tunisia circa 1945 and features three French women in a flower shop. The third woman hiding behind the plant was not revealed to me until closer scrutiny of the photograph in photoshop. Was she hiding from the photographer? Only the self-conscious grin remained visible in her mostly obscured face. I love this photograph not only because of the linear composition and the beautiful arrangement but because of the three women and their three different gazes - one gazing modestly downward, the other boldly facing the photographer, and the third a curiously anonymous smile.

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