Finding a roll of undeveloped film from more than 70 years ago is a rarity. So, what about 31 such rolls? That’s a goldmine. Imagine what it would have been like for the people at The Rescued Film Project when they stumbled upon these undeveloped rolls of film from WWII:
Having found these rolls, taken by an American soldier, the logical next step was to develop them to find out what was hidden inside them. One problem though—it was unclear whether anything could be retrieved at all from these rolls. Inspection revealed that some of the rolls had been damaged by water. And some of the spools were rusted. (Via PetaPixel)
A small setup that basically used a kitchen sink and a counter-top was used for the processing of each roll of film by hand. A larger laboratory setup was ruled out, because not knowing what to expect from these rolls dating back to the 1940s, they couldn’t just be handled as any other roll of film. They needed a personalized approach.
The rolls were unwound from the spools, loaded on to a light-tight container and then pre-soaked in water for a minute. The water was then drained out and the developer poured in. It was allowed to develop the rolls for seven minutes. The process was repeated. Each batch of film took about half an hour to be developed, which meant it was a very long and tedious day.
The final few minutes were like the moment of truth. Puling a batch of developed film containing images of potentially huge historical value always takes a bit of courage. It was a leap of faith. Thankfully, the hard work paid off.
Here are some of the images that were scanned from the developed negatives.
It’s clear from the images that the photographer preferred shooting wide-angle, recording moments that were of significance to a large number of people.
“When I tell people kind of what I do and how much time I spend and money I spend on it they don’t quite get it. But then they start looking at some of the images that I’ve found, and they are instantly hooked as well. They can’t believe that some of these images have never been seen before.”
“When I pulled the film that I just developed out of my film developing tank and looked at them, I am the very first person who has ever seen that picture. They have never been enjoyed, they have never been remembered and so it almost increases the weight of the importance of that photo, because it has never had those moments before. And that’s really the goal of The Rescued Film Project. It’s really about saving as many images as possible before they are all gone. We really look at every roll of film as if it is the photographer’s mark in history, as them kind of saying, hey I exist, and these moments in time were important to me. And even if the photographer’s not around anymore to remember them, we want to reveal the images to the world, because the moments and time that were captured on these forgotten rolls of film were important to someone at some point.”