Dental Records


50p, from the dog walk charity bookshop:

I was hoping for unsavoury diagrams inside the manky cloth-bound covers of this unlikely volume. I was not prepared for the treasure within. There's a lesson here, if it needs to be said, and that is that in the realm of the ephemera hunter-gatherer, persistence is Lord High Emperor – I take every chance I get for a bookly rummage.

I've barely touched the volume of negatives stashed (sometimes unwittingly stuck by moisture) throughout the William Simms, L.D.S. must-read manual, published in 1928. I haven't counted them either, but I'd guess there could be around a hundred. What a gift. What an insight into another time and space.

The space being Uzuakoli, it turns out, in the Abia state of Eastern Nigeria, famous for its lepers, Methodists and slave traders. I'm hoping I don't come across evidence of the latter but combining the first two with the book being found in the missionary hotspot of Northern Ireland, and I suspect what we're seeing here is some kind of dental do-gooders bringing oral hygiene to places bereft of such technologies. Possibly underpinned by a Christian urge to spread the gospel according to the Dental Hospital of Manchester.

I'm slowly ploughing through the most interesting negs, holding them up against a handy frosted glass window we have and photographing them with my phone, then I invert the image with an app. A bit makeshift but it works OK, as you can see. And of course, I'm all about wonky photos at the moment.

I'm pushing them out to the world, whether it's interested or not, through Instagram if you haven't already noticed.