The Value of Fuzzy Photographs

A very blurry photo of a child(?) and a tree(?) indoors My parents were not good photographers. I say this with all the love and respect my entire being can manifest. But all that love and respect cannot change the fact that they have an exceptional chance of winning awards for excessively challenged photo taking skills.

As a child, I was innocently unaware of these simple truths. I figured it was more of a factor of the one camera we had in the house, which probably was considered an antique before I was born. It resembled Fred Flintstone’s model, and I suspect our failure to feed the chisel-wielding bird inside contributed to the poor quality of the images produced.

For you youngsters out there, cameras used to require carefully rolled containers of light-sensitive cellulose known as “film” to capture an image. The mechanical nature of a roll of film itself led to handfuls of photo horrors. If you didn’t advance the roll correctly, you got a handful of pictures where the image inhabitants are calmly ignorant of the black hole hovering just inches away from them, soon to consume not only their physical bodies but probably also their souls.

Another photographic technique favored by my thrifty father, was to make sure to use both sides of the roll of film. These pictures embraced a certain flavor of absurdist avant garde, giving my baby sister the body of a cat, while she explored a living room jungle, complete with sofa waterfall and hanging lamp flowers, while the upside-down floating birthday cake hovered over the waterfall like curious moon.

The creepiest samples are the ones where something in the image was moving, or perhaps the picture taker moved the camera, resulting in ghostly heads appearing above more solid, but still fuzzy heads. And does that blobby thing(?) person(?) have two extra arms? Or are those tentacles?

As antiquated as the photo equipment in the house was, it seems unfair to blame it for loping off the heads of three of the 4 people in the picture or adding random, gigantic fuzzy digits onto the margins of every frame. Probably, it’s also unfair to blame it for filling three-quarters of an image with a spectacular lens flair.

There are times when I lament the headless and fuzzy photos created by the only Polarock camera to survive the Stone Age, and then I also realize how only two generations before, you could count the total number of photos of the entire family on fewer than five hands. And a generation before that, a single hand might do the trick.

These were taken in an age where you couldn’t instantly see the picture you’d just snapped. Each click was carefully considered, and deemed worthy of preservation. Every time the button was pressed, it was one more segment of precious film gone, with no certainty that it would come out at all. Thinking about it that way, all these photos, even the fuzzy ones, become priceless treasures.