Remember film? Remember the waiting period between making a picture and seeing it for the first time? Each roll of undeveloped film was rich with possibilities. Today we share so much of our lives on the Internet. We click the shutter almost reflexively, recording an infinite number of images. With digital technology dominating most casual photography, the discovery of an old roll of film can bring back these feelings of curious anticipation.
“Every image in The Rescued Film Project at some point, was special for someone.” We can only speculate on the reasons someone might have had for capturing a particular moment, and why the film was never developed, but The Rescued Film Project believes that their images “deserve to be seen, so that the photographer’s personal experiences can be shared.”
The Rescued Film Project processes long-lost rolls of film shot between the 1930s and the late 1990s, archiving the images in an online gallery. Their facilities are capable of developing film from a variety of eras, including film that is no longer manufactured, or that has been damaged by age, moisture, heat, and other conditions. Publishing the results online is a fascinating look at what information is hidden among just 36 frames, or 24, or 12. By sharing these personal, anonymous moments of every day life from decades past, the project is creating an archive of daily life in a digital format not dissimilar to how we engage with casual photography today.
While not all films yield results, the ones that do are incredibly diverse in style, subject matter, and significance. The online archive contains some real photographic gems that any vernacular collector would envy—beautiful pictures that far exceed the expectations of a snapshot. The snapshots themselves are a wonderful record of life in a pre-digital world, made during a time when photos were shared privately among friends and family. Sometimes the film is badly so damaged that few pictures come out at all, but these artifacts can make for more interesting photographs, showing the characteristics unique to film photography.
To support the project, selected images are hand-printed in small quantities and offered for sale. You can contribute to the project by donating your undeveloped rolls of film for free processing and archiving. If you recognize someone from one of the photographs in their archive, please contact The Rescued Film Project so that the team can reconnect them with their lost (but not forgotten) photographs.
Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Chief of Don’t Take Pictures.