[FOUNTAIN]Memories in photographs

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[FOUNTAIN]Memories in photographs

“Garbage archaeology” involves the study of daily life in the past through the analysis of trash. The recently begun Cheonggyecheon restoration is expected to offer a golden opportunity to discover historical evidence about the time before the stream was covered over.
Another field involves the study of old photographs to learn about the period in which they were taken. From an archaeological point of view, it does not matter whether the photograph has artistic value or contains a profound message. Archaeologists want to learn from the people, clothing, gadgets and backgrounds featured in the pictures. A photo capturing a moment on a street corner could become historical evidence in the future.
The archaeology of photography entered the spotlight when Kazuo Goto, a former chief photographer at Japan’s Asahi Shimbun, began restoring photos from Japan’s modernization period. He was interested in pictures taken with early camera models that used coated glass panels. He saved the fragile original panels by transferring the images to film or developing them, and studied the photos with historians.
European museums began to provide related materials from their collections when they learned of Mr. Goto’s efforts. In particular, the British Museum sent the unpublished photos of an English archaeologist who excavated Japanese tombs in the late 19th century. The pictures were restored and published in a book that is considered an important collection of images of Japanese royal tombs.
The Korean Information Service published the seventh volume of the Photographic Records of the Government of the Republic of Korea, which features 475 photos from the national archive from 1967 and 1968.
A photo taken at a department store cosmetics counter reveals the favorite makeup item for women in the late 1960s. Movers and porters with traditional A-frame backpacks appear in a picture of the Nakwon Market removal project alongside the policemen who were mobilized to prevent conflict. We can see what first lady Yook Young-soo served Francesca Rhee, the widow of President Syngman Rhee, at a Blue House luncheon.
Memories are volatile. They will fade away if left alone, and it will become harder to check historical facts. Every effort to restore an old photograph counts when reviving a forgotten past.


by Nahm Yoon-ho

The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo
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