Exactly thirty seven years ago (to the month, if not the day) Princess Grace of Monaco visited Stourbridge, in the West Midlands, UK. That’s a bit like saying you were chatting to Mick Jagger on the number 74 bus to West Bromwich, or you bumped into Sir John Betjeman in the sausage queue on Melton Mowbray market. Mind you, I suppose the last one was once a possibility…
I photographed her meeting a bunch of local worthies at Hagley Hall, the ancestral home of the Cobham family. It was an absolute crush, with reporters, photographers, TV crews (and all those damn worthies) vying for a bit of elbow room.
I’m not sure whether my flash went off or not, or even whether I was trying for a natural light picture, which would have been very brave of me at the time, but I got an image that was an absolute swine to print in a conventional darkroom. Luckily, I didn’t have to print it too many times.
Consequently the negative lived in a little packet all on it’s own for nearly forty years, stored with thousands of others in a filing cabinet.
So how could something that had spent it’s whole life doing nothing but sitting in a bag, never seeing daylight, or fresh air, or even stale air for that matter, get covered in so much shite?
I chose this image as one of fifty-odd that I am exhibiting at my one-man show at Himley Hall, Dudley, in April and May this year, entitled A Time It Was.
I simply lost count of the number of hours spent spotting and cleaning up this image at actual pixel size in my editing programme. I suppose the consolation is that I could never have spotted an actual print to the same quality, with dust, hairs and scratches fighting for space on the neg with the same determination and voracity as the original protagonists in that room at Hagley Hall all those years ago.
Here’s a blow up of part of the image, showing the carnage.
And here is the finished image. At least I now have a digital copy that can’t gather dust and scratches, alongside my original Tri-X negative.
All I need to to do is make a back-up, with maybe another, and possibly just one more…