Selective Focus: Bill Coit via Valerie Coit

sf-teaservalcoit
Earlier this year, my friend Val started posting photos her dad had taken to a Facebook album. They were obviously decades old, but they were pristine. These weren’t scans of tattered, faded, off-color prints found in a box in the basement, they were scanned from the slide film her dad shot. A couple years ago, my mother-in-law passed away, and my brother-in-law took on the job of scanning the best photos from a big chest of old pictures and sharing them with the family via Dropbox. All this makes me wonder what will happen as most or all of our family photos become electronic, not physical.

Val tells about the big job of sorting and sharing her dad’s pictures. If anyone has taken on a similar challenge, or has a long-term plan for passing on their family photos, feel free to share favorite photos, thoughts, or suggestions in the comments.

V.C.: In September of 2014, my Dad – Bill Coit – passed away from Lewy Body Dementia. Immediately after, my family came together at my parents’ home in Lamoure, ND and within hours we were looking at old pictures. This wasn’t unusual as we’ve always enjoyed looking at my father’s pics of our family. But this time, it was different. In addition to helping us remember happier times, we were looking more closely at his beautiful nature photos and the shots he took of the dairy farm where he spent most of his life.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

My Dad was a lifelong hobby photographer and his love of cameras is the reason that I’m a photographer now. I come from a family of six kids and all of us have an interest in photography, with two of us (me included) doing it professionally. Over the years, we all admired Bill’s skills and as a 4-H leader he shared his love of the craft by teaching us, as well as many other local kids, how to take good pictures.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Valerie Coit (right) with her dad Bill and her mom

Valerie Coit (right) with her dad Bill and her mom, Clarice.

Bill’s favorite medium was slide film and he continued to use it, long after most people switched to digital pics. All those years of photography means there are thousands of images occupying metal slide carriers, carousel trays, and plastic tubs. Initially, many of my family members got involved in the archiving process. We sat at the kitchen table in the days after he passed and chose pictures to share at his memorial service. After the funeral, many of our relatives remarked how much they loved seeing Bill’s photos. So, over the course of the next few months, my Mom and I spent hours looking through everything and narrowing down the options for scanning. In addition to it being a comfort, I felt a responsibility to my Dad to ensure people could appreciate his work for years to come.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

I contemplated a variety of scanning options, and ultimately decided any equipment I could buy would not measure up to the quality of a professional scanning service. So, I gave First Photo in Duluth about 1,000 slides to scan. We provided them in a few separate batches in slide sorter sheets that were organized by year to maintain a logical order. Within a few weeks, they returned the slides and scans and it was worth every penny. It’s amazing how great many of them look even though some were shot more than 60 years ago.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

So far, I’ve shared all the scans with relatives via Google Drive and Shutterfly. We also had DVDs created for our older relatives that don’t use computers so they could see the photos and easily show them to visitors. I haven’t done much tagging to make searching easier, but am exploring that option via Google Photos.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

The next step for me is to create some photo books. I like Shutterfly due to all the customization options and am planning a series of books. My Mom plans to help in order to provide captions and identify everyone in the photos. Once we’re done, I’m hoping many of our relatives will order copies so we can all continue to appreciate and remember my Dad. I only wish we had taken the time to do this while he was still here. He took great delight in capturing so many beautiful moments on film and I’m sure he’d be pleased to know how much we all appreciate it and how meaningful his extensive collection has become for everyone in our family.


 
 

5 Comments

Paul Lundgren

about 4 years ago

couple-having-supper

This reminds me I still have a few more images from the Cliff's Barber Shop Collection to get around to sharing. (No clue who the people are in this photo or where they are eating, but it might or might not be a Duluth couple at a Duluth restaurant.)

I also recently inherited a large supply of slides from my own family collection. There are so many of them that's it's intimidating to consider starting to look at them for fear I'll never stop.

Mike Scholtz

about 4 years ago

These are so fantastic. I never get tired of looking at them. If there's ever a formal exhibition of these photos, I hope you'll consider calling the show "Jug of Milk & Pee-Stained Pants: The Life and Photography of Bill Coit."

CC

about 4 years ago

Val, I love how unselfconscious everyone is. There's a feeling of tenderness on the part of the photographer. You dad must have been a great guy.

Paul, Is the restaurant the Buena Vista?

Paul Lundgren

about 4 years ago

I don't think it's the Buena Vista. I looks like they are too close to whatever lake is in the background, and the shutters on the windows and the chairs don't match the image linked below.

Sky Room Restaurant Adjoining the Buena Vista Motel

Paul Lundgren

about 4 years ago

greatest-photo-ever

As an addendum I can't help but note that the above is hands down my favorite photo by Bill Coit. This girl is the Mona Lisa of our generation.

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