An Oregon Photographer on the Trail of Haunting and Soulful Images

Portland photographer Kati Dimoff often walks into thrift stores looking for old cameras that might have undeveloped film rolls in them. She has unearthed several old and intriguing photos as a result of this hobby.

One film roll she chanced upon earlier this year was even more significant because it had photos of a historic Oregon event ¬†– the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. The camera, it turned out, belonged to an Oregon woman who passed away in 1981. After the story of Dimoff’s special find appeared in a local newspaper, her grandson Mel Purvis came forward to identify his grandmother, Faye Gardner, as the owner of the camera.

Here are some of the images found on the film roll:

Mt. St. Helens in the early stages of the eruption - shot from Highway 30 in St. Helens, OR Mt. St. Helens in the early stages of the eruption – shot from Highway 30 in St. Helens, OR

A fairly large ash plume - possibly from a few days before or after the main event A fairly large ash plume – possibly from a few days before or after the main event

The owner of the camera Faye Gardner (in middle) with grandson Mel Purvis (right), his wife Karen, and their son Tristan The owner of the camera Faye Gardner (in middle) with grandson Mel Purvis (right), his wife Karen, and their son Tristan

We recently caught up with Dimoff when she talked about what she herself strives for in portrait photography, the haunting quality of thrift store photos, and the magic of film, among other things.

What I aim for in taking pictures of people

I always try to find the fine line between trend and clich√©. What I hope people are looking for is a time capsule of their family’s love, taken in their best light. My goal is to create heirlooms of a family that their grandchildren will fight over. I want their photos to feel like the early childhood scene sequence in Terrence Malick’s film, The Tree of Life. Earnest; timeless; like life is moving at three quarter speed; hair and curtains caught in the wind that is almost as loud as the blood rushing in their ears and the leaves rustling above; weighty and heart-achingly beautiful.

My most memorable photo shoot

i just happened to be driving through the town that my best friend lives in when she went into labor with her second child. I rushed over to the hospital with one roll of black and white film left in my bag. I was able to go in and see them minutes after her son was born and shot this image of him being weighed on the scale. It was all so serendipitous. I’ll never forget it.

My most memorable photo shoot

On my thrift store film hunts and finds

The images of Mt. St. Helens erupting were probably the most interesting, but I have found lots of other images that I find beautiful… vacations in england, animals in an English zoo, a boxer dog in the snow with a rhinestone collar, a race at the Portland International Raceway in the 70s, waterskiers in California, a family’s Christmas photos… all poignant simply because they’ve been separated from the people who took them.

An afternoon in an English zoo An afternoon in an English zoo

Around a gazebo on an English lawn Around a gazebo on an English lawn

Portland International Raceway in the 70s Portland International Raceway in the 70s

Three women in the dark Three women in the dark

Photography in the film era

The word ‘authentic’ has been hijacked so completely in the instagram age, that it will sound trite when i say this, but the authenticity and honesty of old photos is what makes them so wonderful. I’m not sure if that level of ‘organic’ will ever be achievable again, now that contrived authenticity is the norm. Not to mention that film itself has so much more soul than digital.

Photography in the film era

Kati Dimoff is a family, newborn and lifestyle photographer based in Portland, Oregon. Visit her website to read more about her and to view her portfolio.

Photos help us capture moments in time. At ScanCafe, we pride ourselves on the work we do in digitizing photos and preserving memories. This feature is part of an effort to highlight unusual photography and memory projects around the globe.

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