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The Photo As Artifact

Needless to say, in addition to being artwork, photographs can also serve as artifacts.  In fact, I suspect that the vast majority of photos out in the world today are artifact, with only a small percentage of them being ‘fine art’.  I think one can derive this from the fact that there are , are you ready, 300 million photos uploaded to Facebook DAILY!  I suspect that since the advent of digital photography the actual number of fine art photographs as a percentage of total photographs has taken a steep dive.

But, of course, that is not to say that there isn’t great importance to the photograph as an artifact from an earlier time. It’s just that these artifacts tend to have personal meaning that often can’t be appreciated by many others.  This blog has always been about fine art photography, but, as we start the new year, I thought I would share a photo that I recently ran across that is an artifact.  My artifact.

My father is 85 years old.  I bought him a computer about six or seven years ago so that he could send e-mails to his friends and family and spend some time ‘Googling’ topics of interest to him.  He still has that same computer.

A year or two after I got him the computer he decided to take a class at a local community college to become a bit more computer savvy (when he was working I remember him always using a slide rule….how far we have come).  He was given an assignment to scan a photograph and combine it was some text.  Recently, my mother found that assignment and gave it to me.  And so here is my artifact, in the form of my father’s class assignment:

dad007 The Photo As Artifact

Jacob “Jack” Grill

“The picture insert above is that of me when I was a very young kid, who had just enlisted in the Army Air Corps.  The picture was taken in Fusa, Japan, which was a little village about forty miles north of Tokyo. The village was just outside Yokota Army Air Base.  This base was a huge facility being developed to handle the first jet fighter squadrons in Japan.

After eight weeks of basic training at Keesler Field, Mississippi, I was shipped overseas to be part of a group which was to repair radios being used on all sorts of propeller driven fighter planes and bombers.  I was never given any formal training in radio repair and there was no one on the base who had the time or experience to train a bunch of young soldiers who knew nothing about aircraft radio equipment.  In order to overcome this handicap, a Signal Corps first lieutenant was assigned to the repair shop to whip us into “repair shape”.  He accomplished this task by giving us “cook books” which outlined the various things that could go wrong with radio equipment and how they could be repaired.  To everyone’s surprise, within four months we had a smooth working group of about ten radio mechanics who fixed everything from soup to nuts in radio equipment”

My dad went on to become a Civil Engineer and was the Assistant Commissioner for the New York City Building Department for many years.  This is about the earliest photo I have ever seen of him.

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6 Responses to “The Photo As Artifact”

  1. Judith Balazentis Says:

    Great story and picture of your dad.

  2. Howard Says:

    Thanks very much!

  3. Michele Desmet Says:

    Enjoyable post. So nice to meet you Dad!

  4. Howard Says:

    Thanks Michele.

  5. Bernie Kasper Says:

    Awesome photo and story Howard …brings back memories of my Father.

  6. Howard Says:

    Thanks Bernie. Glad it brought back good memories. Pictures like this do remind us of our own mortality though, don’t they.

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