By Mary Geraci
When my father passed away in 2008, I was left with an entire bookcase of slide boxes filled with fifty years of my father’s photography work.
My father began shooting photographs at the age of fifteen in the 1940s. According to dad, he bought a “cheap camera” and began photographing his hometown of New York City. He eventually joined the Army after a few years in college and became a world traveler due to his job in the service. While he was in the Korean war he made a jaunt to Japan to purchase photography equipment and he had the best SLR cameras available in the 1950s. He would continue to shoot slides and photographs for the rest of his life.
It would be a few years later after my father passed away that I mustered up the courage to even look at the slides. The slide boxes were abundant but they were neatly labeled; Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, England, and many other places worldwide.
The last time I had seen any of these slides was in the late seventies when we were stationed in Germany. As a kid, I would beg my dad to show us the old slides from Germany and Europe that he took when he was first stationed therein. I had fond memories of my father putting on slide shows on Sunday evenings for my entertainment. I was fascinated with the beauty and nostalgia that he captured in his photography.
The picture of me with the flowers is my favorite photo that my father took of me. I was about twelve years old in this photo and we were living in Geissen, Germany. On Saturday mornings, Dad and I would get up early and head out on “photo safaris” to various German market places. The markets were always a great place to shoot photos, full of things, people and colors. This would become a ritual and a time where dad and I could bond through the craft of photography. It was our special time together.
The family photos were always a hoot to see. My mother was his muse and she posed in photos in Italian vineyards, in Venice feeding the pigeons, mother standing under the arc de Triomphe, leaning tower of Pisa, posing in Holland in tulip fields. The photos of my mom as a young bathing beauty in the ’50s were priceless. There she was posing on fishing docks and small boats they always made me laugh.
My sister must have known my angst about getting started on such a huge project. Out of nowhere, she sent me a slide and negative scanner that she had purchased at Costo for sixty dollars. I was a total novice and was not particularly computer savvy at this time. Surprisingly it was very easy to use the scanner and to get started. So I proceeded, each box was like a treasure chest filled with surprises. It was surreal at times seeing photos of my father in Korea and Vietnam as a young man.
It was through doing this project that I felt that I got to know my father better, that I was able to see the world through his eye, his images.
While I was working on this project I was wowed by the beauty, the skill and the artistry of my father’s work. I began to appreciate his work even more than ever sitting with it, editing it, cleaning each mildewed slide by hand. It was very intimate for me to be doing this for my father, for his legacy. It was an unbelievable experience for me.