Momma Musta Took the Kodachrome Away: Found Pictures Lamp

14 Mar

A couple of years ago, when I was living in Chicago, I spent a Sunday afternoon strolling the neighborhood garage sales and buying as much as I could carry back to my house for as much money as I had in my pocket which was/is never more than $11. I spend a lot of Sunday afternoons doing this and, since I’ve recently become unemployed, I imagine I’ll spend a lot of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons doing it too. But on this particular Sunday, on a tiny corner of a picnic table, was a dirty plastic bag of film negatives with no price-tag. The garage salesman didn’t even look like he recognized them, so he gave them to me for free. It slightly resembled the scene from “Little Shop of Horrors” when Seymour finds Audrey 2. Da doo.

Shang da doo.

I walked home and, like I always do, laid my treasures out on the floor to gaze at. I remember that I also bought an Indian scarf from the same house that day, probably a record or five, and, inevitably, some tiny ceramic bowl that I wanted to keep earrings or sugarcubes or something in. After holding a few of the negatives up to the light to examine them, I promptly put them in a drawer, not to be seen again until the next time I opened that drawer to get stamps or paperclips and ended up spending 20 minutes staring at the people in the lost photo negatives and trying to figure out what town they were in, if the people were a family, if there was some special clue in one of the photos, if I would find evidence of where Hoffa was buried, so on and so on.

These film negatives were so useless and so intriguing to me that I lugged them through four years and three moves, and switched their location from junk drawer to junk drawer to junk drawer. Until…

Hubs-to-be (hitherto referred to as HTB) and I got the idea into our heads that we would glue them onto an Ikea lamp. Like any 20-something urban couple, we’ve got Ikea merchandise “just lyin’ around”. Last spring, I Mod-Podged one for my sweet baby niece (see A Future So Bright). This spring, we decided to make one for… nobody, just for us. Really, you can’t give a gift of creepy strangers faces glued onto a lamp to just anyone.

We cut the negatives and laid them out in patterns of our choosing on a piece of paper cut to the same size as one panel of the lamp. This was HTB’s idea. To glue them on, I had to push aside my beloved Mod-Podge in favor it’s thinner, sheenier, smellier sister: Spray Adhesive. HTB did this part too because, I believe at this point I was lying on the floor with the cat lamenting my unemployment.

I got up for the lighting ceremony, though, which was truly breathtaking and eerie:

Look at this lady playing the piano who becomes faceless when we turn the light on:

Ooh. Paranormal. Look at this side that HTB designed. I’m pretty sure the big picture is of a guy standing on the planet Mercury:

We’re keeping it for ourselves so people can look at it when they come over, and make up stories to themselves about the people in the pictures when party talk gets boring (or, in our case, when the Pink Floyd records start flowing and you’re not allowed to talk lest you miss a guitar solo). But they would make a superb and cheap gift for anyone in your family or friend group. I’m thinking they’d be especially great for your sci-fi lovin’ BFF, your genealogy lovin’ cousin, or your Peeping Tom neighbor (though if it remains in your window, he’ll enjoy it alllll the more). The lamp cost $8 when we got it and the photo negatives were free because they were probably dropped down onto Earth from Mercury the second I walked up to that picnic table. I thought there was a To-tal Eclipse ofthe SUN that day. Da doo.

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2 Responses to “Momma Musta Took the Kodachrome Away: Found Pictures Lamp”

  1. Anne March 15, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

    I love old photos – this is such a cool project!

  2. Nancy Long March 15, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

    Hey, those were my negatives! Just kidding. When I went through my mom’s stuff, I threw away every single negative because people just don’t do things that way any more. Never occurred to me there might be another use for them!

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