Mexico 1971

This seems like a small miracle. My dad was an amateur photographer with a passion for Agfa’s colour process – his creativity was as much about the chemistry as the still image. Moving images held no interest.  Except, for one brief moment in time, it did.

The evidence was found at the bottom of a box of negatives in the shape of two reels of Super-8 marked Xochimilco and Bermuda.  They must have been shot during his time working in Mexico in the early 1970s – this was all I knew.

Inspired by J D Riso’s moving post, Liquid Memory, I had the Super-8s converted to DVD. The results may be over-exposed and scratched but emotionally it is overwhelming. Suddenly my mum is alive again, my sister has reverted to her 27 year-old self and most surprising of all, there I am, twenty again – I have absolutely no memory of this film being taken.


It starts in over-bright light with a group of figures walking towards the Mexico Olympic Stadium and then moves to the Trajinera boats at Xochimilco. My sister is chatty and smiling, my mother distant and imperious. As always, my dad is invisible, behind the camera.

I imagine the cine camera was borrowed, it certainly never found its way back to the UK. Neither did we have access to a projector – it fits my sense of the dramatic to believe this has never been seen before.

The short film ends with my mother in Berrnuda, walking away to an unknowable future. (the rest of the Bermuda reel has been omitted).

With thanks to TVV Productions for their excellent conversion service.

The conversion watermarks appear because I am too mean to fork out for a full movavi licence (movavi converts DVD VOB cine files to MP4 for display on Youtube).


  1. mingophoto · March 6, 2016

    a very interesting look into the past

    • northumbrianlight · March 6, 2016

      Many thanks, a journey in time as well as place – thanks for looking.

  2. LaVagabonde · March 6, 2016

    What an absolute treasure you have here, Robin. I’m so glad you had it converted. I love the shot of the people against the stark white stadium. Your mother is indeed imposing. She reminds me a lot of my grandmother. Thanks for sharing these with us. I think I could watch Super 8s forever. There’s such a fascinating eeriness in the soundless images.

    • northumbrianlight · March 6, 2016

      It is a treasure Julie and I am grateful for your inspiration – Super-8s do have the colour and tone of memory, I just wish there were more. You know from the book that I was not close to my mother and there is a distance between us on this footage which seems entirely fitting. Seeing this for the very first time, so many years after it was shot, was extraordinary.

  3. littledogslaughed · March 6, 2016

    Wow! This has spurred me to grab all the super 8 films that my father shot-I have his old Super 8 camera, but your brief presentation is a wonderful reminder of the power of film-and I agree with Julie-there is an eeriness to watching people and places long gone come alive once more-Thank you so much for sharing this-

    • northumbrianlight · March 6, 2016

      Many thanks Meg, I think Julie may have started something. I look forward to seeing your father’s films.

  4. greenmackenzie · March 6, 2016

    What a wonderful gift from the past….a real treat thanks to the magic of technology💕😊

    • northumbrianlight · March 6, 2016

      Many thanks Seonaid – all the more exciting and emotional for never having been seen before.

      • greenmackenzie · March 6, 2016

        Fresh to eyes after more than 40 years unseen💕

  5. Maureen Sudlow · March 6, 2016

    What a wonderful find…

  6. Cate Franklyn · March 6, 2016

    Wow, what a treasure, Robin. I watched it twice.

    • northumbrianlight · March 7, 2016

      Thanks Cate – I wasn’t sure how interesting it would be for others, glad you enjoyed the time travel.

  7. Photobooth Journal · March 7, 2016

    Wow. Speechless. How wonderful to find this on something that may have been tossed because you knew your dad never had a super 8 camera. It reminds me a bit about a scene in the movie ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ when the eponymous heroine 0f the 1980s finds herself back in the 1960s. She is in her old home when the phone rings and realises it is her long dead grandmother whom she is once again able to speak. I bawled my eyes out! Photography is time travel for me, much more so when the images are moving (in both senses of the word). I envy you, as we have nothing like this in our family.

    • northumbrianlight · March 7, 2016

      Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed it. Photography as time travel is exactly right – Jules Verne over-complicated the science. The danger of digital is that we will lose the possibility of chance finds, the box of glass negatives or monochrome stills at the flea market – the case in the loft with negatives and Super-8 reels; I guess you are more acutely aware of this than others. While there is no more Super-8, there must be stills to go with it – in the film I am carrying my dad’s 35mm Werra – and so it goes on.
      Many thanks for your thought-provoking comment, all the best, Robin.

      • Photobooth Journal · March 7, 2016

        Thanks Robin. I agree that That aspect of technological development is making the future a lot less interesting and not only from the perspective of photographic finds. Who will be out collecting written social history ephemera now that most personal correspondence is done via email or text? It will all be lost and what will be left is archived drivel from Facebook and Twitter. It makes old photos and letters all the more precious now. Kate

      • patrick · March 7, 2016

        I expect that, providing the hard drives don’t all fail over time, there will still be chance discoveries in the future, it’s just that they’ll be chance discoveries of old laptops in the attic. The problem with digital might be the sheer quantity of rubbish anyone looking for stuff of interest might have to wade through. I’ve got about 50,000 digital photos on my desktop, most of which I’m sure will be of no interest to anyone in 50 years time.

        And I half-wonder if the archived drivel of twitter and facebook might actually be rather more interesting in 100 years than it is now. If anyone keeps it…

      • northumbrianlight · March 9, 2016

        Hi Paddy – we are in Bologna at the moment, worshiping at the shrine of Ducati, Borgo Panigale – just done the factory tour – very impressive but no cameras allowed 😦 Will be in touch when we get back.
        My limited experience of Facebook bears out the drivel theory but that’s only part of it. What we will miss is the tangible connection with the past – the postcards written by your great grandmother to her brother Charlie are a classic example. You can discern lots more from the handwriting, the choice of card and the overall layout than you ever could from a simple archive of the words. And then there is the physical connection – picking up the very card that she wrote and posted all those years ago. There will be more information in the future (as you say – too much) but less understanding.
        Will speak soon, Dad.

  8. restlessjo · March 8, 2016

    Surreal! 🙂 Did I just walk onto a movie set? How very strange is life, Robin?

    • northumbrianlight · March 9, 2016

      Very strange indeed, Jo – Patricia Routledge (Hyacinth Bucket) could play my mum in the full length feature. I will let you decide who plays me – no answers required 🙂

  9. Malin Ellisdotter H · March 16, 2016

    As years go by and time flies it becomes more and more important to us to go back and trying to see things in a different light… Suddenly everything makes sense. I’m touched by this beautiful post.

    • northumbrianlight · March 16, 2016

      Many thanks, Malin – it was quite an astonishing discovery, I just wish there was more. The unexpected still image can be remarkable but the unexpected moving image can be overwhelming, however poor the quality. All the best, R ❤

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