FALMOUTH — A visit to her father’s darkroom after his death illuminated his world for Jessica Lantos.
And now, 15 of the thousands of World War II negatives made by Lt. Col. Henry Pollard during his service in England, North Africa and Italy will enlighten viewers at the Falmouth Memorial Library, where the photos will be on exhibit for a month beginning Jan. 16.
Pollard was a Portland dentist and an enthusiastic photographer, Lantos said. After he returned from World War II he started the photography club at the Jewish Community Center in Portland.
“If you were a patient in his office, you would have been surrounded by his photos,” Lantos said. “He was a camera junkie; he probably owned 10 cameras at a time, kind of like some women would own shoes.”
Although many were familiar with the subjects he captured closer to home – from aerial shots he took as a pilot to pictures of patients’ teeth – it was after his death five years ago that Lantos entered her father’s home darkroom and discovered dusty cigar boxes filled with thousands of photo negatives, each carefully stored in its individual sleeve. Meticulous handwriting documented the location, date and subject of each image.
Handwritten notes also filled the pages of several journals stashed alongside the negatives. Not one to share his emotions, Pollard wrote entries that moved abruptly from “invaded North Africa” to “had steak for dinner,” Lantos said.
These glimpses into her father’s life and experiences made Lantos hungry for more.
She brought the negatives to a professional who agreed to make contact sheets – prints of 10 small pictures per page. The cost was exorbitant and Lantos could only afford a few at a time.
But the decision about which photos should be enlarged was like choosing a wall color from hundreds of tiny paint samples, Lantos said.
After receiving discretionary funds from Earl Shettleworth of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, she began to develop the exhibit. With that funding and a 2008 Abromson Award from the Jewish Community Alliance, Lantos was able to continue to develop the exhibit.
The first picture she had blown up to 16 by 20 inches was one her father had taken of himself as he left Pisa, Italy, in 1945. It turned out to be one of her favorites.
“It was that same smile I recognized,” she said wistfully.
Another favorite is of the invasion of North Africa.
“It was very powerful to me to see how my father really saw the war through the eye of the lens,” she said.
One of the most interesting parts of her efforts has been the opportunity to connect with people who knew her father, Lantos said – those in the local community and, by e-mail, with a few of the soldiers he served with or their children.
As for Pollard’s journals, Lantos said she plans to “be thoughtful” about how she might use them. For the library exhibit, she will scan relevant journal entries to display with the photographs.
• FYI: “Through My Father’s Lens: Images from WWII, 1942-1945,”
opens Friday, Jan. 16, at the Falmouth Memorial Library, 5 Lunt Road, and runs through
Jessica Lantos of Falmouth with the contents of several cigar boxes in which she discovered thousands of images captured by her father, Lt. Col. Henry Pollard, during World War II.