It is no secret that I have few technology skills. I joke that if I push the ‘Power’ button and the light goes on, I am way ahead of the game right there. My cell phone is a vintage Nokia that makes calls and accepts calls. That’s it . . . period. It doesn’t give me the weather forecast for Paris, doesn’t tell me what Apple is trading at, doesn’t give me movie times. I do not text and I do not tweet. My loss, I guess.
But my biggest regret is that I do not know how to scan negatives into my computer. I started to photograph music 49 years ago and over the years I have accumulated tens of thousands of images that would probably never be seen.
In the middle 1990s, I had the money and time to travel to blues festival and there were plenty of them with technology start ups getting rich and sponsoring festivals. I have two binders filled with sheets of negatives from every year from about 1996 to about 2002. Good stuff too . . .
So the woman who is writing a biography of me told me that she could teach me how to scan. Nothing to it, she says. Take maybe five minutes and you’ll be good to go.
Well, I’m ready to improve my life at any time and scanning negatives gets a very high priority with me. She tells me to pick a negative and I go into my New Orleans Jazz Festival folder. Since the festival is held during the daytime, all of my negatives are sharp and clear . . . hundreds of them . . . all sharp and clear.
I pick a 1995 Gatemouth Brown shot. His guitar is hanging loose at hip level and he is playing his fiddle. He is looking right at me with a big smile. Yes, this is the right one to launch the scanning segment of my life.
We insert the strip of negatives. The machine whirs and the strip goes into scanner and numbers come up on the Nikon application. The numbers correspond to the number of negatives I have inserted.
I click on the proper negative and hit “preview.” The machine whirs and the Gatemouth picture comes up, crisp and sharp. She asks if I want to crop the image and I say that it is fine just as I see it now.
OK, now I hit “scan” and wait a few seconds while the computer does its work.
Then she asks me where I want to save the image and I tell her that I have a file already created for Jazz Festival images. So I put it there.
Then I wait for further instructions.
“That’s it,” she says. “You have just scanned your first negative.”
That’s it? That’s it? That’s all there is to it?
I am numb. I feel elation beyond human comprehension. It is like I have invented freaking fire and my life is about to change forever.
I think about all of my unseen negatives of John Hurt and Fred McDowell and my last shots of Luther Allison and Little Milton.
I feel like I have been given an incredible gift . . . the ability to bring forth dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of images that I thought would never be seen.
Scanning is simple, she had said. I can teach you in five minutes . . .
A door is opened and I am really ready to move on through . . .