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Matinee: 'Dawn Parsonage, The Found Photographer' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

30 December 2017

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 130th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Dawn Parsonage, The Found Photographer.

This, the liner notes explain, is the first of a series titled The Vignettes, documentaries about niche crafts, hobbies and professions. Not that photography is a niche hobby. But found photography might considered a niche.

Dawn Parsonage is a found photographer. She doesn't need a camera for her photography. So she doesn't spend feverish hours comparing camera features or pixel peeping into the corners of lens test prints. But she has a lot of photos nonetheless.

She estimates she has collected four or five thousand images, both prints and negatives.

In this five-minute piece she explains she collects old personal photographs from about 1850 to 1950. She finds photographs.

The attraction of old photographs someone else took, she says, is this process that captures "a moment." Something that really happened at a certain place at a certain time.

There's more to it, of course.

She finds her photographs abandoned at flea markets, their meaning mostly lost in the obliteration of their bloodline. Who are these people? Where are they? Much of that can never be known.

But the images still speak to her. "We're not as different today as we think we are," she says.

She loves the genuine emotions she sometimes finds in these photos, too. It's as rare a find in found photos as it is now in contemporary ones, she observes. But now and then it makes an appearance.

She collects albums as well. But never breaks them apart. It would interrupt the story they tell.

She estimates she has collected four or five thousand images, both prints and negatives.

Around the four-minute mark she describes a photo that surprised her. It was a portrait of a woman who didn't look well. And she discovers the reason when she scans it.

"Each single one of these moments was a real moment that happened in time." And valued, she adds, by the person who took the photo.

Now they are valued again -- for auld lang syne at least.

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