Great Uncle Harry, Part I

Great Uncle Harry Raynsford

Many years ago I was given boxes of family negatives and prints, most of which were made by my Great Uncle Harry Raynsford in the early 1900s. For the past eight years I have specifically explored the way he photographed animals and how animals were seen culturally at that time.

Harry was a real estate man but apparently he spent most of his time making photographs. They include a wide variety of subject matter. Many are intimate portraits of his family life, as well as documentation of Sacramento, San Francisco and other areas of California.

The range of possibilities in re-imagining these photos make them one of my most treasured collections.

I was anxious to reprint the photos in the darkroom so I tried various size enlargements and different surface papers. But they were still just copies to me. It wasn't until I started to tear and reassemble a large reprint that I saw the reflected elements of layering, repetition, and changing light that the original prints also encompassed.

Ultimately, by presenting the family heirlooms in contrast to the new photographs it helped me portray the continuity of life.

I think a lot about our mortality and how a person can live an entire life full of incidents, drama, regret, fame, but not necessarily be remembered.

During my childhood my parents sometimes spoke of their parents. I watched how deeply their expressions changed as they told what seemed to be their own sacred memories. And I watched them incorporate childhood stories into their adult comprehension and behaviors.

Great Uncle Harry's work has helped me to make up a narrative about this part of my family. Many of his images have a joyous quality to them.

I still have the family gun that my Great Aunt Marguerite practiced shooting with.

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