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Rediscovering Some Davidson History

by | Jul 10, 2023

Vintage photo of Main Street. Photo was actually taken in the 1980s. The old cars were there for part of Town Day activities.

 

I have been a photographer since I picked up my first camera at age 10. From my mom’s old Brownie to my now-45+ year use of Nikon cameras, I have been documenting things around me for nearly half a century.

I came to Davidson on a college visit in 1982 and returned in the fall of 1983 as a first-year student. I brought my 1974 Nikon F Photomic top with me. I volunteered on the yearbook staff (the Quips and Cranks). I served as the co-editor my sophomore year, and the editor my senior year. Most importantly, I convinced the college photographer – the one and only Bill Giduz ’74 – that I was worthy of his trust. In doing so, entrusted me with a key to the main college darkroom in the basement of Chambers.

Just a few of dozens of image gathering equipment acquired over the years.

I kept up my black and white photography for several years before making the full time move to color photography. A lack of money coupled with the ability to develop my own film and print the photos kept me in a black and white world a while longer than many people. After developing a roll of black and white film the standard practice was to simply print a proof sheet on 8×10 paper. The images were the same size as the film, and we used a loupe, a.k.a. a fancy magnifier to select individual images to print. The rest of the images were never printed.

And while still photography was my primary means of documenting things, I have also captured video along the way. In that, I am following my dad’s actions – as he documented the world on 8mm film.

My first jump into video came in the days of those big and bulky VHS camcorders. I didn’t have enough money to buy a nice video camera on my own, but I had a plan. I had discovered that the college had a collection of 16mm films, films made by or about the college. Since very few people were opting to go to the trouble of setting up one of these big projectors to watch the vintage films, I convinced Dr. Leland Park to invest in a project. I provided “free labor and tech support” and the college assisted in the purchase of a top-of-the-line Quasar Super VHS Camcorder.

Over a period of weeks, I set up the projector in a small room in the E.H. Little Library and began “filming the films.” The result was a set of primary VHS duplicates as well as copies that could be checked out for viewing.

I left Davidson in 1989 after four years of study and two years working at the college. I ran off and joined the Navy and took my camera(s) along for the adventure that would last 26 years.

Until 2002, all the still images I captured were on film or slides. For the past two years I have been scanning all the negatives and slides in my collection. There is still work to be done, but I have had a great time bringing these 20th century images into the 21st century.

One of the hundreds of proof sheets (with negatives) that I have been scanning. And yes – that is Arnold Palmer at Quail Hollow in the late 1980s.

Several months ago I posted a photo on social media, and one of the people featured in photo said that she had never seen the image before. That’s when it dawned on me that the image had never been seen. It was one of those “other” images on a proof sheet that had never been printed, and as a result, it had never been seen by anyone other than me and perhaps a handful of yearbook or newspaper editors.

The result of that epiphany was a renewed energy into my scanning efforts. And then I thought the same thing of my old video collection. (Hint, this is where you will get the idea that I might have inherited the “borderline” hoarder gene from my father.) Yes, in addition to boxes, cases, and crates of photos and negatives, I have shelves and cases of videos. The old ones are VHS and Super VHS and the “newer” ones are MiniDV. I used the latter format in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Several weeks ago, I began digitizing some of the videos. The whole process has been amazing. While the old adage of “a picture is worth a thousand words” is certainly true, perhaps it can be said that at least some videos are worth exponentially more words. In some cases, it is seeing and hearing voices long gone. In other cases, it is simply the magic of the actions captured in between what was otherwise the still moments in history.

While the preponderance of videos and still photos reflect my time in the Navy, there is still a good collection from Davidson. As a result, I created a special folder on my photo and video website and named it “Focused on Davidson.” The contents are still images and video of Davidson (campus and community) from the twentieth century.

Some of my top video recommendations are:

There a lot of still images to enjoy too, but two albums that I’ll recommend are:

 

 

Happy viewing!

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