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Black and White Photos Equal Death?

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Apologies in advance for what is a thinly disguised rant, but I originally wrote this when I was upset. However after looking back on it, I still find it reasonably appropriate and have posted it here with minimal edits.

I have to occasionally deal with odd outbursts from the Unreasonably Stubborn Man who is a relative that will remain unnamed. It does not matter who he (or she) even is, as that is not particularly important. In the past I just sort of let these things go but recently my attitude on things have changed. You could say that my ignorance tolerance level of took a nosedive, and this time things got interestingly stupid.

Topics of contention usually involve politics, gender roles, and issues of regional interest, but this one really takes things to a new, completely senseless level. At issue were some black and white photos hung on the wall near an elderly relative who resides in a nursing home. They were hung recently, a big improvement over the stark bed and cube space where she spends a good chunk of her day. These photos offer a significant source of memory jogging as said relative is suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s- and any little hint that helps jog the mind is a good hint indeed.

But Unreasonably Stubborn Man sees things differently:

“Black and white photos should not be hung around the elderly. Because they are black and white it means they are very old, and old things remind them of the death that faces them”.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

Oddly enough the nurses and other staff have complimented the photos, as they paint a new face of my elderly relative for them to see.

“Take down the photos immediately. I don’t want death associated here and you just don’t understand what all this means.”

Apparently a new tradition has been established and I am supposed to go lock step with this argument. For one, associating monochrome photos with death is a crazy statement that has no merit. Also, these are not Unreasonably Stubborn Man’s property, and he is not pictured in the ones on the wall. What it lacked in complete and utter bullshit it makes up for in the entertaining, ignorant humor aspect of it all.

For the reader, a visit to the magnificent site Shorpy.com should open some eyes not to the death, but the beauty of life captured in vintage black and white prints before the advent of Kodachrome and Agfacolor. Because up until then, there was no really reliable and inexpensive color process for film.

Also in the voice of another elderly relative (one that is not suffering from Alzheimer’s) – she would kill to have such photos, especially in black and white. Sure enough, many people still preferred monochrome because their print quality would last, compared to color prints which would develop a yellow or pink cast after only a few years.

Unfortunately, the photos had to come down. The one element of solace came from a nurse who probably overheard some of what happened, and seemed to understand without uttering a word of what had happened. Unreasonably Stubborn Man triumphs for now.


Written by Tijger Tsou

November 14th, 2008 at 8:02 am

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