The happy viking

The first mistake was a blurred image of a woman in a Viking hat made from cardboard. Then there was another mistake: the blurry silhouette of a child’s head in front of a glowing, purple, egg-shaped stage.

As I flicked through the two packets of photographs I had just printed out, I noticed many other mistakes. There were pictures of blurred children running across a paddock, a blurred skink, a blurred goanna, a blurred forest, a blurry brass band marching in spectators’ shadows, dark figures inside a car, a woman with a double chin, a woman snapped side on so her gut sticks out and she looks about five months pregnant, a gigantic hot chocolate, a pink unicorn painted on a child’s arm, half a dozen shots of a Lithrone 26 Komori Corporation offset printer and a man’s knees (also blurred), four shots of the lolly stall at the Adelaide Central Market, about the same number of Swanston Street and many photos of children pulling faces or making various idiotic gestures with their fingers (bunny ears, flipping the bird, rock dog, gangster hands with tongue out).

Here was proof of my ability to take out of focus photos on an auto focus camera. Impressive! I had selected everything I meant to unselect. I had printed every dud photo and ignored every decent one.

I had even managed to print one of the 300-plus dead newspaper mastheads I had photographed before Christmas. I had sliced the top off the masthead and the headline was skewed. ‘Resist march towards fascism’, it said. Vanguard was the name of the paper. It expressed “the view of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)’. Those brackets are on the original.

My family all had a great laugh at my stupidity and I went to another photo booth and printed out the good ones. It was a waste of time and money ($60) but now, a few weeks later, I look at the bad photographs and I like them more than many of the good ones.

When cameras were loaded with film, you were more careful about how you took a photo but mistakes happened and then you could not censor them. The photo lab printed out the lot. Now, you can just delete the ones that make you look fat or old, the ones that are muddy or fuzzy. You only share the good stuff. You only print the ones that show the life you want to see. Isn’t that boring too?

We still have photo albums with hard-copy pictures in them. My kids went through the good and bad photos and picked out the ones they wanted to go into the album.

I like some of their choices. They have put the photo of the Vanguard front page – ‘Resist march towards fascism’ – next to the photos of the Hyde Street Youth Brass Band getting ready to march on Anzac Day.

But I am disappointed with others. They have left out the blurry woman in the cardboard helmet. That photo was taken late on the last night of WOMADelaide, just before Femi Kuti came on. The hat has two cardboard horns, each one decorated with an exclamation mark. The lower part of each horn is decorated with a compass while the part of the helmet that goes across the forehead has a YinYang symbol stuck on it. The woman is also carrying a cardboard shield but that is barely visible. She is laughing.

Perhaps she is recalling how just an hour or so earlier, she had spotted the Cuban jazz pianist and composer Roberto Fonseca in the crowd and rushed up to him. ‘You are sublime,’ she said. ‘Your piano playing is sublime.’ The musician smiled politely at the woman and the happy Viking smiled back and walked away.

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About rachelbuchanan2000

Journalist, historian, mum. 'Stop Press: the last days of newspapers' (Scribe, 2013). Creative fellow, State Library of Victoria. Project: 'The Melbourne Sirius' an artist newspaper (2014). First book, 'The Parihaka Album: Lest We Forget' (Huia, 2009). New project, about doctors and doctorhood, is on the go now.
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