After image

I bought the camera at a market, attracted by its bakelite case and retro styling. On the way home I pretended to take photos through the bus window. Suddenly the resistance in the winding mechanism gave way. There’d still been film inside, an unfinished roll from who knew when. The man who’d sold it had said it had been on a shelf in his shed for the last forty years.

I took the camera to Leon to see if he could process the film.

‘Might not be much left,’ he said, ‘but I’ll give it a go.’

The next day he rang me. ‘I’ve got your film, Come and have a look.’

The prints suffered from the film’s degradation. They were faded and looked as if silverfish had been let loose on them. But they were fascinating. A young man and a young woman on a beachside holiday. Shots of them together and some of each other—posing in front of an ice cream kiosk, picnicking in the dunes, on the terrace of a fancy hotel. The faded romance of the 1950s.

I took the photos back to the market to show the stall-holder.  But he dismissed me without looking. ‘It was my father’s,’ he said. ‘I’m sure he’ll be all smiles. He always was. All bloody smiles.’