Originally uploaded by olivander.
About fifty years ago, a family took a vacation to Miami Beach, FL. They brought along their Brownie Hawkeye Flash camera and took lots of pictures of themselves having fun. They got home, finished up the roll with a couple shots of the dog, and put the camera up. Perhaps that’s the day that they bought a new camera. Maybe they set the camera down somewhere and forgot it and it became lost. Somehow, life interfered and the roll was never removed from the camera.
For fifty years.
Recently, I bought a lot of vintage cameras on eBay, and this family’s Brownie Hawkeye Flash was among them. I found the roll of film inside and decided–without much expectation–to develop it and see what was on it. Film left in cameras is notorious for not surviving. The camera inevitably gets opened, and the unsealed film is repeatedly exposed to light and high temperatures and humidity. On top of it, it had traveled with its camera through standard postal service, undoubtedly being subjected to x-rays at least once. I figured I would get, at best, a bunch of fog-covered frames with faint images of someone’s new car or kids playing in the back yard.
The results blew me away. Verichrome Pan was long heralded for its superior range of tone and fine grain. Evidently, it was made to last, too. The only alteration I made to the developing process was to push the developing time from Kodak’s recommended six minutes to eight, in the hopes that the increased time would boost the contrast enough to cut through the inevitable fog.
You can see for yourself that the pictures were almost perfect.
This lost holiday brings up many questions. Who was this family? What brought them to Florida? Why didn’t they ever get their pictures processed? Did they ever wonder what ever happened to them? Does the kid in the pictures remember that trip? What ever became of them?
I created a set for these photos on Flickr. I hope that someone, somewhere, will see them and say, “Hey, that’s Dad/my aunt/me!” If that happens to be you, please get in touch with me so I can return your photos.