It was 16 years after the 1994 earthquake that my former assistant Robert Howard decided to clear out his Santa Monica garage. He called me “ Mike, I’ve got a box of your old slides here, do you want them?”
The cardboard box was soggy, oily and rotting so we threw it away. The plastic slide holders had decomposed and looked like something fungoid and disgusting.
At home I gingerly put each ghastly folder on a light box and suddenly there was Jimi staring out at me from a 35mm slide! It as covered in fungus. My only comfort was my memory after a lifetime as a professional photographer and commercials director I could still remember the shoot and the polaroid perfectly. I think I sometimes dreamt of it.
Here it was at last but so unrecognisable I could have easily missed it.I was shocked that the frame of Kodak Ektachrome had so badly deteriorated the whole image was bleached, particularly Jimi’s red backlit hair and the blue background. For a moment my life seemed to lack all basic ambition, the image I wanted to love so much was horrible, ghastly.
I placed it in front of a table lamp bulb and shot some pictures including the card holder. These days I shoot everything on a Canon Digital. The reason the image is so red is that the light source was 3,000 Kelvin, the colour of household lighting. It would have been simple to change the colour in the computer but it shows the fungus well this way.
And it’s all red, the way it was in 1967. Surely there was hope…
January 10th 2010
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