Found Film: Magic In Mystery / by Deen Schroeder

I started shooting 35mm film in March of this year and a few months ago I discovered a roll of used film in a barely functional Pentax K1000. The camera was found hidden beneath a pile of other old dusty cameras at The Collectors Treasury in Maboneng - a place that is renowned for the millions of old books and countless old world goodies. It is the biggest second-hand bookstore in South Africa. I asked the store owner if I could buy it and he graciously let me have it without charging me a cent. I am sure that he had a bit of a chuckle to himself as I proudly walked out of the shop with something that had little to no value. I was so excited because a used roll of film is a time capsule or a window into memories that have never been seen by anyone. There is some magic in the mystery.

I didn't know what to expect. Potentially, the roll of film could be filled with 36 wondrous images of glamorous times, secret military plans, and beautiful shots of places that I have never seen. Conversely, I was worried that the roll would be completely devoid of images. I didn’t know how long that roll of film was in that little Pentax on its shelf at the Collectors Treasury, or that the person using the film even knew how to shoot film.

The roll of film sat on my bookshelf for months and I kept avoiding it, convincing myself that it would be a waste of money to have it developed. Last week, I got it developed and paid the R120 in the hopes that the roll would unlock long lost memories.

I got the negatives back from the developer and saw that those 35mm frames contained what looked like useable images. I was extremely excited to see what the scans looked like on my computer and hopefully make sense of it all. I felt like a bit of a detective.

The images that came out of that roll were interesting and even more mysterious than I could have ever imagined. The images don’t give any clear indication of time or location but I do suspect that many aren’t from South Africa. The people in the photos look like they are in their 20s but it is not clear if these photos were taken last week, last year or 10 years ago. Receiving these images and seeing them for the first time was a truly magical experience but the mystery is amplified because I would really love to find out the stories behind these photos.

I hope that the photographs might get back to their rightful owners; wherever they may be in the world. Please share this article on your social media pages and let’s try find these people and return their memories to them.