One persons obsession with a roll of film found in a camera in an antique store.
I love cameras. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you about my seemingly ridiculous obsession. I shoot mostly with film these days. Some would say it’s a step backwards, but I love the wait for development, the anticipation, and the unexpected results.
From the Diana to the LC-A, and many in-between, my collection seems to grow monthly. I can also often be found perusing the aisles of antique shops looking for another to add to my collection.
I always open the cameras, but never realized I was doing it. I think I’ve been subconsciously waiting for what eventually happened last month. I was in a local antique mall, and I stumbled across an Ansco Panda; a simple TLR dating back to the 1940’s. I opened it up and inside was a roll of film that had been shot but never developed. I quickly closed the camera and checked the price; $15.00. How could I refuse?
I paid for the camera and made a hasty exit, suddenly worried that someone in that tiny shop would become aware of what they had held. I couldn’t wait to get this roll developed. What would be on it? Who did it belong to? What stories did it have to tell me? Was it a lost camera of Elvis? Or perhaps, as my paranoid mother suggested, the lost camera of a mass murderer? Should I be expecting a visit from the police after dropping the film off for development?
And then the wait began. My local camera store does not develop 620 film in store. The turnaround isn’t usually too bad, ten days tops, but because I was so anxious to see the results, it felt like an eternity. Ten days passed with no call from the lab. I was beginning to get nervous. Had it been lost in transit? Did it get confiscated? Maybe the original camera owner was from Roswell and the film had been confiscated by some government official, in a classified operation. Dear God, where was my film?
Ten days turned into two weeks with no call from the lab. I was starting to obsess. I called the lab, but there was no answer. I tried again, and it just kept ringing. I waited five minutes and I phoned again. Still no answer. Had they gone out of business? Where was my film!? At this point I was hyper-ventilating. The madness had to end. I wanted to cry. Where was my film?
I woke up in a cold sweat. Apparently this mystery roll was starting to be a bit of a health issue.
I tried to push it out of my mind. I needed to get on with my life. I needed to start shooting again. I grabbed my LC-A+ and went for a walk. That’s better. I was going to beat this. I finished off a roll ready for the lab; I would take it in on Monday.
A friend of mine came by my workplace and asked if I’d gotten the film back. Crack. Obsession Redux. Where was my Elvis/Mass-Murderer/Alien film?
I barely slept. I needed release.
Monday arrived, and I went to the Photo Lab with my newly finished roll. but my mind was elsewhere. As I approached the kiosk, my hands were sweating, my heart was pumping and the fellow behind the counter was suddenly public enemy number one. That bastard had stolen my mystery film. He must pay…
“Hello Mr. Weed” he greeted cheerfully.
“Hi” I replied. Attempting to keep my voice level. Trying not to betray the fury within.
“Dropping off today?” he asked innocently.
“Your last breath” I thought to myself.
Out loud I responded; “Sure thing”.
We finished the transaction, exchanged pleasantries and I turned to leave.
“Oh, Mr. Weed,”
I turned back expecting him to mock me, admitting as all evil geniuses do, the nature of his plan. He was gong to sell my Elvis/Alien/Mass-Murderer film and make millions. Ooh, I was angry.
“Weren’t you waiting for some specialty film?”
“Yes, I was.”
“I just noticed it came in today. Sorry about the delay. Here you go.”
My heart leap into my throat. A wave of relief rushed over me.
“Thank you” I stammered.
I grabbed the roll and ran out of the store, my faith in humanity restored.
I don’t get prints made when I develop film, I find the store results too sterile, over processed, too clean. I prefer to scan the negatives myself. It takes a bit longer, but it’s worth it. The lab tends to fix the vignetting and clean up the over saturation my beloved Lomography cameras are known for. If I want a crisp image, I’ll use my DSLR.
But, I digress. I opened the package that my roll was in, unraveled it and held it up to the light. I couldn’t see much; some trees, some mountains, definitely no Elvis. But it didn’t matter; I had my treasure. I had saved this roll from an uncertain future.
Here are the results of my little trip into obsession;a vignette of someone’s life I will never know. Judging from the clothing and style of dress, I will guess these photos were taken in the early nineteen eighties. The film was decaying rapidly, but I managed to get all twelve shots off the roll. Please enjoy these images of a family road trip from 30+ years ago.