Imagine shopping at Goodwill and finding $1,000 stuffed in the chair you just sat in. Kati Dimoff must have felt similar feelings of surprise and excitement upon finding unseen photographs of the Mount St. Helens eruption in an old Argus C2 camera. A 38-year-old photographer based in Portland, Oregon, Dimoff made a usual stop by the Goodwill on Grand Ave and found yet another camera with forgotten film inside. “A few years ago I found my first roll of undeveloped film during a search, and I've been checking for them ever since. I just have a curiosity and love for ‘abandoned’ things.”
After getting the film developed by Blue Moon Camera & Machine, where Dimoff takes all of the forgotten photos she’s found, the photographs were discovered to depict the eventful 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption on a damaged roll of Kodachrome film. One of the developers left a note on her prints that read, “Is this from the Mt. St. Helens eruption?” Developed in black and white, since Kodachrome color processing has been discontinued, 14 photographs emerged, some of which contained puffs of ash escaping the volcano and a family portrait, 37 years old.
The members of the family in the photo have been identified as Mel Purvis, his wife, their son, and his grandmother. Purvis’s mother, who passed away a couple of days before the photographs were discovered, is presumed to have snapped the photo. “One of my friends commented that his ‘Mama called to tell her son that she is ok!’” Dimoff said. The found photographs and the camera have since been sent back to the Purvis family.
After wide spread media coverage, returning of photographs and camera to their original owners, and carrying on with her own photography business, Dimoff reflected on the experience, saying, “It's been really incredible. Mount St. Helens is my favorite place. I grew up on the Oregon coast and would have been almost two years old when Mount St. Helens erupted. My parents remember ash falling in our yard even though we were hundreds of miles away. It's always been a formative childhood event, even though I don't personally remember it. So, when I realized my found film had images of the eruption, it felt like it was meant to be.”
Sarah Sickles is an artist, activist, writer, and the News Editor for Don't Take Pictures.