As I look at photos of my great grandparents, grandparents and parents, I see the faces of my past. Each looks at me across the span of time without movement or animation, yet each coveys a strong message of simultaneously being connected and disconnected in time, space, and place. I am certain that we each assume that same position for our successors, and are especially so for our children and grandchildren.
This notion of being simultaneously connected and disconnected arose as I began restoring a number of old family photos. The photos had been, in each instance, ravaged by “time”. In some instances “time” was represented by conquering Russian soldiers or Polish farmers. In other instances, “time” was simply represented by entropy; the simple degradation of unstable, impermanent materials. No matter the cause of degradation, the photos required repair. As I worked pixel by pixel to recreate and reconstruct the images to a past condition as sense of understanding and knowing grew in me. People whom I had never met became in a manner both familiar and relevant to me. This first became obvious to me as I rebuilt a badly damaged photo of my maternal grandmother’s parents. The photo to which I refer is the wedding photo of Hermann and Auguste Recht.
By way of brief explanation, Hermann was once a guard for Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia, most likely from 1900 to 1910. Auguste was his wife, who we assume died before the age of 40 from Lupus. Hermann survived her by some 30 years only to die by drowning as he tried to save his second wife who was pushed into a river by Russian soldiers as they advanced in 1945.
The original photo is badly abused. Sections of the photo appear to have been “rubbed” off the original paper backing. Restoration was quite painstaking and conducted at an almost microscopic level, pixel by pixel. As I rebuilt sections of their faces, ears, and hair both Auguste and Hermann seemed to come to life.
Both predeceased my birth.