We visited a car boot sale across the border in Belgium recently, which had the usual stalls of tat. I found one thing of interest, some old French commercial slide sets. Each slide show (“diapositive”) has a few slides and a typed commentary. I bought the lot: 40 sets for the price of a good beer, roughly.

image: mare and foal

The slides were originally in colour, but the colours have faded badly. I’ve not got the skills to restore them, although I’m going to play around to see if I can do something. They certainly work in black & white.

But, beyond that loss, the photographs themselves are generally high quality. There are good examples of composition, technical skill, and inspired opportunism by photographers who clearly knew what they were doing. It’s always good, and often educational, to see good photographers’ work.

I’m also happy to note the focus is often imperfect and the horizon sometimes wonky, which makes me feel better about my early photography, which had those problems, and many more. Autofocus, for example, wasn’t around when these photos were taken, and was beyond my student pocket when I took my early photos.

Photography software is recent; for most generations of photographers, mistakes had to be prevented when out in the field, rather than corrected, later, on the computer. Slides are the worst: taking a copy of a slide loses quality, so the ideal slide is the image taken in the field, without cropping, without changing exposure, without anything. The images you see here are scanned slides, they are (probably) what the photographer took, unmodified (except that I’ve post–processed them to compensate for aging). With that in mind, I find some of them very impressive indeed.

The photo on this page is from the first slide set I scanned, LA JOURNEE D’UN PETIT POULAIN, by Jean TOURANE, published by deva press, France.

So why am I posting these slide sets online? Bluntly, I think they’re too good to lose.

But what about copyright? Well, I think, although I certainly cannot guarantee, that deva press images may be out of copyright. Here’s why.