1200 rolls of undeveloped film shot by one photographer in the 1950s discovered at auction

Jun 28, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

1200 rolls of undeveloped film shot by one photographer in the 1950s discovered at auction

Jun 28, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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66 bundles of undeveloped film, estimated to be over 1,200 rolls, shot by the same photographer in the 1950s have found themselves in the hands of Levi Bettwieser at the Rescued Film Project.

Acquired by the Bettwieser a year ago at auction,the bundles of film are meticulously wrapped and labelled, including information such as the camera used, light modifiers, and exactly when the films were shot.

YouTube video

Nothing is known about the identity of the photographer, except that his name is Paul. The notes written on each bundle, and on each film itself should help provide clues as to tracing either the photographer or some of the subjects contained within the photographs.

roll_bundle

With a mammoth task ahead of him, Bettwieser had developed only one roll of film from this batch, but the degradation of the film became immediately apparent.

rescued_film_scan_001

rescued_film_scan_002

As a consequence, Bettwieser has assembled a team to work through the rest of the film as quickly as possible before it degrades further and partnered with Blue Moon Camera to get a reduced cost on developing.

Nobody knows why the film was left undeveloped, and without yet knowing the full identity of the photographer, more information can only be found within the images themselves.

Maybe the photographer couldn’t afford it at the time and passed away? Maybe he just liked the idea of leaving a time capsule to tell the world “I was here, I existed” once he passed. After we process the film we plan on finding out the real story.

– Rescued Film Project

The images shown so far don’t appear to be anything special, certainly nothing beyond the typical family snaps that any of us might create, but who knows what those other rolls may hold.

Although the Project has partnered with a company to get a reduced price on developing, the cost is still substantial, around $15,000. Bettwieser has created an Indiegogo campaign for those wishing to help support the efforts.

Bettwieser and the Rescued Film Project were also responsible for discovering and sharing 31 rolls of undeveloped 70 year old film shot by a soldier during World War II.

While old film finds seem to be happening more and more often lately (or perhaps people are just posting about them more often), it’s very rare to see such a discovery on this large a scale.

I for one will be interested to see what these films will uncover once developed, and what insights they may offer into daily life back in the 1950s.  How about you?  Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

[via ISO1200]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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17 responses to “1200 rolls of undeveloped film shot by one photographer in the 1950s discovered at auction”

  1. Stephen Scotto Avatar
    Stephen Scotto

    43,200 pictures of cats.

  2. Mik JP Avatar
    Mik JP

    43200 selfies from the 50s.

  3. Angel Luis Maldonado Avatar
    Angel Luis Maldonado

    If not expose to light, it’s a treasure.

  4. Matthew Whited Avatar
    Matthew Whited

    probably closer to 14000 or 28000 photos… they sure liked their short rolls back then. (assuming it is 35mm… could be much less if it was roll film.)

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Well, this certainly looks like 120 roll film. Whether it all is or not, I’ve no idea.

  5. Ken Hymes Avatar
    Ken Hymes

    Article suggests the pics are “nothing special.” As a cultural history geek I strongly disagree. Troves like this are always special and revealing. Just the two pics shown say a lot about the material and family culture of the period. Toys, use of domestic space, what is worth taking a picture of: it may not look important to us when so many were alive then, but with great detail and sheer numbers comes perspective and insight, given the time to peruse and reflect. This is not the great street art of Vivian Maier, but it’s always wonderful when someone provided a visual document of a time and place. We tend to rely on received ideas about our past… sometimes an image can undo those assumptions. Best wishes to all.

    1. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      Culturally, absolutely. I meant in a purely photographic context. :)

  6. Sean Avatar
    Sean

    I threw $10 at it. See what happens. :) I love things like this though the closest I ever got was a handful of rolls I found in my desk from 10 years ago..lol.

  7. Elliott Sturman Avatar
    Elliott Sturman

    That’s amazing

  8. John Tobin Avatar
    John Tobin

    dude was way ahead of his time. probably just from one wedding.

  9. Cory McClay Avatar
    Cory McClay

    I would love to be involved in this project as I still own a full wet lab.

  10. AnnPelham Avatar
    AnnPelham

    Why isn’t he putting this stuff into the public domain?

    1. Nick Avatar
      Nick

      Copyright law can be tricky. The copyright of the photos belongs to the creator or any heirs.

  11. Michael Carpenter Avatar
    Michael Carpenter

    That is a lot of severely degraded film. 50s are still very well documented thanks to photographers who developed their films. I would not spend my time and money developing that bunch unless it did belong to my family or give me some real benefit. However… OK, throw one of those rolls to me!

  12. Béné Né Avatar
    Béné Né

    Laurent

  13. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    I get it … the whole “let’s rescue this photos before they are gone” thing … what kills me is the fact that there are no consequence to the effort… they are not exposed, or shared I know for a fact there will be a book(s) to “cover expenses”.

    The copyright issue with the heirs of this project is complex… so I don’t see it being solved any time soon. It is very difficult to me to have a project of this magnitude run by a person only and asking for everything free… where are the Adorama’s or B&H or the Fujifilm labs offering their services… if this project has the magnitude it states there is some kind of message lost somewhere because if I was a major camera player I would jump at this like a cat!!! why is neither of the Camera companies involved?

    Just too many questions… I LOVE the project is the admin of it that i cant see clearly…

    Let me explain my rant…
    When the Japan disaster ocurred there was a project that asked retouchers from around the world to retouch and save photos scanned from victims families and bla bla bla bla… right?
    Everybody and their cousing that had a some editing and retouching experience pounced at the opportunity to help … i was one of them…. work by faith.

    Then a light went off… what guarrantees do I have that these edits once uploaded to the server again where not going to be sold to the families, news, entities, or such?? Guess what there where none.

    And that is why im reluctant to this project… my 2 cents.

  14. Ignacio Alvarez Avatar
    Ignacio Alvarez

    I will be glad to help printing some of the images. I teach darkroom photography at Truman College in Chicago and I can involve my students to help. Please let me know if we can help. Ignacio Alvarez