Old vs New (and the Death of My Computer)

by Christina

My laptop broke this week. What an excellent way to begin the new year. All it’s programs and systems and files; all the things that made it what it was just withered and shuddered and died, one by one. I was attempting to scan in some 35mm black and white photographs of Sheldon at Nunhead Cemetery at the time. We had visited last March – it seems an eternity ago now, but I had got two impossibly expensive films developed for Christmas – a present from my dad – and seeing our visit on beautiful, matte photo paper, preserved forever and sitting in front of me as if only yesterday – it brought it all back to life and back to the forefront of my mind. Sheldon standing outside the locked and dilapidated chapel. Sheldon inspecting the names on the more imposing gravestones and monuments. Me taking gratuitous selfies, as if to prove my own existence on the trip. The constant curse of the photographer. Look! Here I am! Honest! Grainy and somewhat blurred because of the low ISO of the film and the grey of the day. I can describe them for you all day long but it’s not the same as seeing them. Which, in turn, is not the same as being there I guess. But still – my laptop is dead. I can’t change it but I CAN write about it. And you’ll know that my intentions were good:- I HAD intended to put together a beautifully illustrated post for you this week. But hardware has failed me.

It made me think:- this blog exists on the Internet. It has a presence online and it takes up space on a server somewhere and you can log on and see it. You’re seeing it now. But physically, it doesn’t exist. Not the way my photographs do, the ones I can hold in my hand but am unable to show you. It’s downloadable and printable, the same way my photos are uploadable, scannable. The two cannot exist together however, not really. They belong to two different eras. My photos come from a camera which belongs to a pre-digital world. The blog exists in the Now – a world that has almost forgotten the personal journal, the scrapbook, the paper and pen. Blogs are all those things rolled into one now. In order to be preserved, they must be saved, copied, printed. If the Internet were to be deleted tomorrow, our celebration of the past, which exists so firmly in the present, would be all gone.

Just like, if there were to be a fire at Cemetery Club HQ, all my photo prints would be destroyed, but the blog and all it’s files, providing we had sensibly saved them all on an external hard drive and then removed said hard drive to another premises, would remain.

The loss of my laptop forced me to be creative. Why should I not use new technology to bring you my old photographs? There’s always a way to create a link between the past and the present. After all, isn’t that the whole point of Cemetery Club?

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All photographs taken by Christina Owen at Nunhead Cemetery using a 35mm Canon compact camera in March 2013. All photographs of photographs taken by Christina Owen using an Apple iPhone 4S in January 2014.

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