Friday, January 4, 2013

French WWI images found still in camera

Here's something you don't see every day, so I think it deserves a post.

  The other day I was alerted by my friend Rob McElroy about the existence of an antique store that recently purchased a large photography estate.  Among other things Rob collects antique books on photography and asked me to investigate if I can spot some books there similar to the ones that have already been put on eBay by the store.  

  I drove up 100 miles to the store and found an incredibly cluttered little shop filled with furniture and other trinkets stacked on top of each other at least three levels high.  The back room, however contained the photo gear and it was a delight to see.  In fact, I'm not done there just yet and am going back on Saturday on my way to interview a wet-plate photographer in LA area (look for that interview in the next post).  There are dozens of wooden cameras from late 1800s, hundreds of lenses and shutters of all makes and kinds and thousands of parts and supplemental to cameras of any sort (sadly, most of them probably hopelessly and forever disconnected from their original counterparts).  I dug around for about 8 hours and am probably still yet to see all that there is.  

  One of the cameras that caught my attention right away was a French stereoscopic camera called Jumelle Bellieni.  I knew that I had to have it for my collection even though it was missing the focus-synchronizing bar and dark slide.  Here is a link to some pictures of one that is in better shape than mine.  It's a pretty neat-looking piece of equipment and, even if I never take a single picture with it, it will look very nice in the camera museum I'm hoping to open up in my old age.  Thankfully the price I was quoted was reasonable and still leaves me with a bit of diesel funds for the upcoming second journey aboard The Photo Palace Bus. 

  When I got home I was anxious to figure out everything about the inner workings of this camera.  First order of business was to clean it.  Everything in the collection that was acquired by that store is covered with a thick layer of dust and grime and it took quite a few Armorall wipes to get the leather to gain a presentable look.  Then came the Carl Zeiss lenses - I carefully took them apart and wiped them to the  best of my ability.  I can't say they are in great shape, but at least I got the majority of fog off of them.  I started to run out of things to clean on the outside of the camera, which naturally made me wonder what it looks like on the inside.  After a good while of looking for the back release I realized that there is none present entire back can be slid to one side.  The plate pressure springs jumped out at me like a couple of live and angry rabbits (the Monty Python And The Holy Grail kind).  Naturally I thought something was awry as I am not yet used to camera parts charging in attack mode.  Luckily I soon realized that I was out of the danger zone and that the two parts acted as they should have been expected to.  Here is where things got incredibly interesting.

  Inside each film chamber I found a stack of neat little glass plate holders (12 total).  While 4 of them were empty the rest contained the original thin plates of glass.  The last thing that I ever expected to find though were negative images on those plates!  Each of them seem like they were fully developed!  The glass is clear (I am not sure if dry glass plates had antihalation backing on them and am in touch with an expert to try to find that out) in the dark areas and fully exposed and dark in the light areas.  I am completely baffled by this find, but the images were so intriguing that I decided to scan them.  

  While viewing the images in their negative form it was difficult to say for sure what was on each of them, but after scanning them it became clear that they dated back to the First World War and were taken somewhere in France.  There were 8 images and they say that a picture is worth a thousand words.  I will spare you from reading another 8000 words - here they are, quite possibly seen for the very first time since their capture.


 House in a river after bombardment

Three soldiers and remains of an airplane

Two soldiers, one holding up a sizable bomb

 A town showing signs of war

Two soldiers and countryside in the distance

A soldier by ruined train tracks and houses

A stereoscopic image of an old house.
This was the only image done in stereo pair.
Large light leak is unfortunate as it would have been fun to print this pair 
and view it my old stereoscope.

  I absolutely love finding images that likely have never been seen by anyone in the world.  
  Hope you enjoyed looking at them as well.  If you would like to have some prints of these 100 year old photographs for your wall or collection I would be happy to make real gelatin silver darkroom prints for your collection for a very reasonable cost.  Web-reproduction rights are granted on case-by-case basis, it is my hope that you will consult with me about publishing my find.

  Here is a another chance for me to express my personal preference for analog photography.  Let's say you took some pictures with your latest greatest digital camera (perhaps you actually were  present during 911 and got some incredible documentary captures).  Let's suppose that you forget to take the memory card out of the camera and lose that camera or forget about it up on top of some shelve.  Time goes by and, alas, you pass away having lived a long and productive life.  That camera is sold to an antique store 100 years later (if it doesn't end up in a landfill - people seem to value old things less and less nowadays and the incredible numbers in which digital cameras are being produced today make me wonder if anyone will even give a camera from the early 21st century a second look by then).  What do you think are the chances that whoever buys your camera will be able to see the incredible images from your memory card?  Will they have devices that can take a Micro SD or a Sony Stick in the 22nd century?  What if your camera spends 20 years sitting on top of a magnet - will that scramble the images beyond recovery? 

  If you find this post intriguing I recommend taking a look at the blog entry with images from the First World War period taken in Russia.

Support The Photo Palace Bus.
Our educational programs operate
largely on public donations.


Thank You,
Anton Orlov

88 comments:

  1. Anton,

    Im so glad you ended up with this camera and negatives! You obviously appreciate this kinda stuff more than the average collector. Come back to the shop anytime.

    -Dan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These are really cool. Are the fingerprints on the one photo yours?

      Delete
    2. Surely that right-hand image in the lone stereo shot can be digitally corrected, and easily, using information from the undamaged left-hand image.

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing. It's great to see new images from so long ago.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love seeing those images. Great save and thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent find and thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. so amazing!
    it's like inventing a time machine.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Absolutely phenomenal! I wouldn't even begin to know how to get those negatives processed. What a lucky find :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. These are so cool....makes me want to dust off that old Brownie I have in the closet...

    ReplyDelete
  8. These are awesome. It is amazing the things that are sometimes found that have be lost for so long. I find it interesting and I think it is pretty neat the way finger prints and/or a thumb print can be seen on the image of the town and there is also a reflection of what appears to be maybe the person taking the picture or of something anyway in the upper left hand side of the photo :D Thank you for sharing your awesome find!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Fascinating story and terrific photos. One can only wonder who took them. I took out an Argoflex EF last weekend and shot some 120 film. To do that, I had to obtain an extra 620 spool (that model only took 620 film and it only had the original supply spool). So I called a friend who, in his mid 80's, has never used a digital camera (he still rolls film and develops his own photos in his darkroom). At any rate, he rummaged around and found a 55-year old roll of 620 film. He saved the box and gave me the film. My other friend had some 120, but I needed to put it onto the 620 spools. Mission accomplished (I have the 620 roll in a change bag and will re-spool it and fire it off just for fun at some point) but what was interesting to me was how acclimated I'd become to not winding film. On an old SLR, it was second nature to advance the film once a shot had been taken. But with the Argoflex, I forgot to wind the film on one shot and so will end up with a double exposure. Live and re-learn.

    The other thing is that if anyone wants to see the stereo photo, it's not that hard to do without a viewer. Simply move away from the screen (or make the photo smaller) and relax your eyes until that middle, stereoscopic image forms.

    Thanks for sharing and it will be interesting to see what else you turn up. Maybe a tintype of General Grant is waiting in there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not positive but on the 4th photo on the left side truly looks like a side portrait of someone overlaid over the image not sure if it can be isolated digitally or if it was of the owner of the camera but that would be a fun little adventure

      Delete
  10. There's nothing like the fun of shooting and processing your own film. And next comes making great prints!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Amazing to see such old pictures. Just facinating!

    Also, get that armorall crap off that fine old camera!

    Use a nice saddle soap on the leather first, then use a good mink oil.

    I reccomend Mermac mink oil. I was a wrangler and also broke and trained horses for 15 years and leather was a necessity. I learned quickly how to take care of it so it would last a loooong time even under the harsh conditions I put it under.

    Saddle soap - get Feibings

    Mink oil - Mermac



    FAQ about Mermac mink oil:

    http://www.mermacminkoil.com/faq.htm

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bah...it didn't put the place to buy the mink oil. Here it is:

      http://www.bootbarn.com/Boot-Barn®-M-F-Mermac-Mink-Oil-Tub/1007916,default,pd.html?start=13&cgid=Boot Care&srule=Price (Low to High)

      $7 for a tub that will last a good while depending on what you need and use it for.

      Delete
  12. Dear Anton, I can view the stereo pair on my monitor by relaxing my eyes as one would when viewing a random dot stereograph. The light leak doesn't detract from it too much, almost like a stray bit of hair in front of one eye. What comes through is oddly serene and beautiful, and has good depth. I hope you will print and view in your stereoscope. Thank you for sharing your find.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can see it too. It looks just fine.

      Delete
  13. What an amazing find! The thought that those images may not have been viewed since WWI sends shivers down the spine.

    Thank you for sharing them, and I'm glad the camera has found a good home.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Latest Hot Entertainment News, Latest updata about Bollywood, hollywood, pakistani Girls
    hotentertainnews.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Amazing..thanks for sharing..Bagus sekali..

    ReplyDelete
  16. É realmente, incrível é como encontrar um tesouro, que foi guardado a muito tempo, obrigado por compartilhar, boa viagem e boas descobertas.

    ReplyDelete
  17. muito bacana a descoberta espero que descubra outras cameras com mais fotos .


    abraço

    ReplyDelete
  18. Feel back to the past..

    Amazing, its still alive..

    ReplyDelete
  19. bacana mesmo, a historia do mundo e suas civilizaçoes nunca podera acabar, sempre sempre temos que divulgar a nossa historia e nao perder a essencia humana.

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think you should coordinate with the Liberty Memorial WW1 Museum in the U.S. for prints of these photos to be displayed, it is the only museum of it's kind in the United States.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great idea Marcus, I'll try to get in touch with them. I'm looking forward to making real darkroom prints from these negatives - that will be so exciting!

      Delete
  21. Fantastic! Keep up the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thank you for sharing these! What a great find. I hope you get a huge following from the news article :)(Quick! Add some ads! lol)

    ReplyDelete
  23. thanks so much for publishing these pics and your story.. as a historical fishing and hunting photographic collector/ antique dumpster diver!! i find these and your story fascinating..going to make a donation now..Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Anton, Congratulations the pictures were fantastic "Great Find"

    ReplyDelete
  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Congratulations on a fantastic find. thanks so much for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  27. Any chance the 'blank' plates have an image on them that just hasn't been developed yet? Of course if you've exposed them to light, that's 'over', but still might have it checked. The chemicals to develop/stop/fix photos aren't expensive... probably find a local hobbyist who would be happy to try. Anyway, great find!! Thanks for preserving the past for all of us!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my case there were 8 holders with developed images and 4 totally empty ones, but yes, I bet a lot of negatives get ruined in antique shops and camera stores when people open the backs of cameras or the holders that those came in. I'll definitely be extra careful from now on.

      Delete
  28. I too found a box of photo equipment at an estate sale. It was marked $2.00. When we picked it up it was quite heavy. We asked what they wanted to do with the things inside. They said just take it for the $2.00. When we went through them we found over 100 negative (3 x 5) and 4 x 6. They were mostly from Europe from about 1919-1929 and some family photos too. They are my treasures. I have printed some of them but have always wondered how to share them with the world and find out more info about them. Any direction?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Certainly you could start a blog and add the photos as you scan them. Also, there are several websites dedicated to "Lost Relatives" for photos of unknown people. "Dead Fred" is one of the best known, www.deadfred.com/ but there are many.

      Delete
    2. Seems like a blog would be a good platform. I'm still amazed at how far and wide these images spread across the globe. I love rescuing old cameras and images and commend you for doing the same.

      Delete
  29. This is amazing moment, you're so lucky finding this historical picture

    ReplyDelete
  30. I have often commented on what we have lost with the advent of digital cameras. I suppose it is nice to see a picture when you take it to know if it came out the way you wanted it too, but even that takes away from the anticipation of turning in a film and waiting to see what you've got. There is a certain amount of romanticism that goes along with analog pictures. Keep up the good work. If I had two dimes to rub together I would love to donate to your worthy project. Don't give up.

    ReplyDelete
  31. You can still view the stereoscopic print via old fashioned cross-eye technique. The light leak hardly gets in the way!

    Stunning find, thank you for sharing this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It feels like there's a bright light shining from the left when you use the cross-eyed technique. Not worse than walking outside in the early morning and you get the sun shining from the left.

      Delete
  32. Interesting - flat land like this - probably near Reims or Rethel - 15 or 50km above. (I live there)

    Bravo et merci

    ReplyDelete
  33. Outstanding! A miraculous find!

    ReplyDelete
  34. The photo of the city with the church has a fingerprint on it. Is this the person who found it or the original WW1 owner? If not the person who found film then is there any records from the first world war that may be able to identify them? I am not sure when fingerprinting was done in France (fingerprinting started in late 1890's In England), but if it was done in France the French army may have fingerprinted its soldiers. These photos most likely were taken by a soldier so It may be a long shot but who knows.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the idea William, I'll try to go down that route as well.

      Delete
  35. I am happy for you, what a great find! Thanks for sharing!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  36. This is awesome! Now, where is this antique shop?

    ReplyDelete
  37. What a nice find. You mentioned 9/11 in your article. A few stereoviews actually exist of that terrible event. They were sold to benefit a social services program in NYC.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I love looking at old photos. If only these pictures could talk. They are amazing! Thank you for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  39. I love this post! Thank you so so much for sharing that with the world! Hope to see more of your work soon! You now have another follower!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Thank you for sharing this fascinating glimps into a passed time.
    And your right about the digital cameras. Best would be to have both a digital and a analogue camera. I don´t think there are any way back to using analogue systems.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Here´s a new follower, and I hope you would like to visit my simple blog and perhaps be a follower u 2.
    MyBlog: wwww.ducktowns.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  42. In the photo "A soldier by ruined train tracks and houses" soldier has only one foot.

    ReplyDelete
  43. Your stereo pair actually looks great as a stereo image (just relax your eyes and merge images; it's easy if you're used to X-ray image reconstruction stereo pair viewing): you could almost certainly fix the one image with bits from the other.

    But WHAT a great find!!

    ReplyDelete
  44. Dear Mr. Orlov,
    This is truly an outstanding, remarkable, unbelievable find! I'm very grateful that you were the one to find these images. It is very clear your passion and love for photography. I wanted to thank you for time, energy and effort put into sharing these wonderous photos. It is truly amazing what you have shared with us all. To be able to go back in time at that exact moment to see what is was like even before some of us were born. You sir are very propitious in my opinion. What a fortuitious moment in time for you and all of us that you were so kind hearted enough to share your experience with us! I once again thank you. Keep up the good works, sir!!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I was able, using Stereo Photo Maker, to make a usable 3D image of the parts of that last image that weren't obscured by the light streak. You may wish to try it yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  46. It is amazing that these were brought back to life after nearly 100 years in hiding, I am glad he was willing to take the time and effort to show the world this history. For decades Europe fought wars with each other, some lasting 100 years or more and now they have been at peace for nearly 70 years, at least with each other, they may have troops in conflicts around the world but are not fighting amongst themselves anymore.

    ReplyDelete
  47. I have to agree with Hugues,these pics could be from my hometown and/or its surroundings.Incredible and fantastic find!

    JB - Villers,France

    ReplyDelete
  48. Herr Orlov--

    What an amazing discovery! This post and its accompanying pictures have inspired me to start writing a weird, Lovecraftian short story about a fella who purchases an antique camera and finds it full of prints showing Things Which Should Not Be. It shall be dedicated and linked back to you once it's done! I hope you'll enjoy it. :)

    DCFP

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What about a story of a guy who finds an old old camera full of prints showing Things Which Are Still Yet To Be?

      Delete
  49. Anton,
    The stereo pair is viewable as is. I can see it on my computer monitor. The light leak does not detract too much from it. It has good depth. Thanks for sharing these!

    ReplyDelete
  50. oh the Russian Revolution! Yes those will be historically significant. Still, to those in the US and Europe, these photo's in France are priceless.

    ReplyDelete
  51. Another vote for stereo pair being viewable. Standard it was a little wide on my monitor, hold control and mouse wheel down to shrink the image some and it worked well.

    There is a size that is easiest on this type, hold control and use the wheel to scan through the sizes for 'easy', then you can hold the stereo image and make it bigger until you can't, then back in just a little. Gives the largest stereo view, works in Firefox at least.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Breathtaking. I'm really taken by these - absolutely awesome. What's equally as cool is not only the fact they exist, but the fact someone was able to find and salvage them. A regular ol somebody would have likely ruined them trying to figure the camera out. Great work!

    ReplyDelete
  53. What a delightful story - and find. Thanx for sharing, Anton. The thrill of unexpected discoveries when handling real physical history, whether photographic or print, is, we fear, to be lost on a generation raised in an increasingly electronic/digital age.

    U are quite right to be concerned about what happens to digital photography in a century. (Anyone have any Beta tapes they wanna share or archive or duplicate? Yes, we do, haha.) One photographer friend last week lost decades of his work when his hard drive crashed; all efforts to recover the drive have failed. (No comment here about the need to back-up stuff.) And then there is the real threat of CMEs [coronal mass ejections] that can/will wipe out electronic files even if backed up (to electronic media, of course) ...

    Again, thanx for sharing this wonderful adventure and discovery. Hope u find more treasures in ur rummaging around photographic history!

    ReplyDelete
  54. Amazing. Thank you for sharing these with the world!

    ReplyDelete
  55. Thank you for sharing your story and pics. Very impressive and I'm happy I ran across your story. I wish you the best.

    ReplyDelete
  56. Humanity must thank you for finding these photos.
    Greetings from Brazil
    Daniel

    ReplyDelete
  57. Hi
    Great find. I have been looking for clues as to the locations.
    It is possible that the photo of the two soldiers on the tall structure, maybe on the "tower-bridge" (double mining shaft winding towers) in Loos, France. It looks like an industrial structure.(http://greatwarphotos.com/tag/loos-1915/)
    It was heavily fought over, before it was destroyed, at the Battle of Loos Sept 1915.
    If so, then the other shots may well be from the same area. There are no present day buildings to compare to, as the town was totally flattened. So pre-war photos of churches etc are needed for comparison. The shot of the church might be of the Bethune village church, I found a 1914 photo, which is from another angle and close-up.(http://battlefields1418.50megs.com/loos_photos.htm).
    Paul

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Paul,
      Thank you so much for trying to figure this out. I looked at the images there and I have to say that both of them could be possible, but I see some differences. The 'tower-bridge' looks quite more elaborate than what those two soldiers are standing on, I can't find the particular detail in that tower that would match my image. Also the Bethune church seems to have little pointed towers about half-way up the clock tower and the one in my image seems to not have them, they do look amazingly close though.... I'll keep looking.

      Delete
  58. Nice Pics, I found your amazing blog reading a famous french newspaper : http://sciencesetavenir.nouvelobs.com/insolite/20130114.OBS5325/chez-l-antiquaire-des-cliches-inedits-de-la-grande-guerre-dans-un-vieil-appareil.html

    Eric

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Eric, I'm glad these images got back to France after so many years.

      Delete
  59. Agreed with the above comments on the stereo image - I'm also able to see it just on my monitor. The effect of the light leak is surprisingly minimal. For me, much of the nice depth of the stereo image comes from the buildings vs. the tree on the left vs. the lower left small hill area in the front, which are all intact in both. The left image then fills in the light-leak sections of the right image quite nicely for the rest, and it's fantastic.

    While it could certainly be digitally enhanced, I'd recommend also printing it up as-is, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

    ReplyDelete
  60. Hi all,

    I come here to tell you we have found where are the place of these pictures. Sorry for my bad english, you can found result of a great working group of france on this site :

    http://pages14-18.mesdiscussions.net/pages1418/photos-14-18/divers/photos-inedites-sujet_991_2.htm

    Greetings from France

    cordially

    Shark

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Shark,

      Thank you so much and please don't worry about your English, it's much better than my French.
      I do believe that Shark26048​6 in Posté le 25-01-2013 à 21:01:39 has the correct location of the church Unfortunately I can not read French at all - could you please let us know the name of the town and the church?
      I hope we can find the right location for the structure that the two soldiers are standing on and maybe the location of that image with the horses and the plane.

      Thank you!

      Delete
    2. Hello,

      The town is ETREUX and the church's name is "Eglise de la Nativité de la Sainte Vierge".

      For the plane i give you this that i translate with google traduction :

      "Etreux airbase used to the German army during the occupation of the town during the First World War. the carcass of the bomber is Friedrichshafen G III went to the squadron made ​​this city January 24 to July 6, 1918 (several types of aircraft including this one)."

      And we think all pic was taken in a small radius of this place. Like the two men raised and the church, the pic was probably took on a "easel mine" it's "chevalet de mine" in french.

      Cordialy,

      Shark

      Delete
    3. Have just Tweeted this - you need a Twitter account pronto :)
      Peter D Cox (@peterdcox)
      03/02/2013 10:51
      The back story to those remarkable WWI photos in Observer. His work deserves serious philanthropy. thephotopalace.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/french…

      Delete
    4. Hello Peter,
      Thank you for your attention. You can indeed find me on Twitter @thephotopalace
      Cheers,
      Anton

      Delete
  61. Fascinating. I love old photos.

    ReplyDelete