Since October 2014, I have been scanning, restoring and sharing rolls of film that were found in an estate sale and subsequently put up on eBay for sale. Unlike the “found film” I usually develop after it has been neglected in an old shoebox or left inside a forgotten camera for decades, this film was already developed and neatly rolled up, with only a single identifying clue on one of the rolls:
From this clue, and the growing body of human history and information that has become the internet, I have been able to reconstruct a great deal about the life of the photographer and those he photographed. Things like where he worked, the home he lived in, the trips he took his family on, the names of his relatives and the work they did. I learned a lot from a book I bought, written by someone who grew up in the town across the river just ten years later, and shared these photos with the author. Of course, a lot of it is speculation and guessing.
Much like these rolls of forgotten, undeveloped film I have been sharing, when you’re dealing with a box of negatives with no connection to anyone you know, you wonder about the people in the pictures, but it’s all with a certain sense of detachment – like you’re studying ancient history…black and white negatives, 1949 Chevrolets, caskets returning from the Korean War…
Then it becomes awkward when you discover that the little girl who appears in every roll, most likely the photographer’s daughter, is still living and has only recently lost her father. And these are all very real memories of someone’s life, they’ve had to sift through all his belongings and figure out what to keep, what to discard. And the pictures in this box probably correspond to actual prints pasted somewhere in a stack of dusty photo albums, memories of a childhood, stacked in someone’s attic.
I have carefully boxed up all of the negatives, along with a CD containing scanned and restored digital copies of all of the photos, have mailed them back to Louise Agnew. In her response, she noted that their family had not seen many of these photos until they received them in the mail.
Thanks to the late Raymond Albert and his surviving family members for sharing these wonderful photos and memories. I hope they don’t mind that I shared them with you.