👀 Picture (Im)perfect
#311 | A shutterbug’s journey through time
As a kid, I cherished the rare occasions my parents let me use the old film camera they locked away in a secret chamber inside a rusty cupboard.
When I held it in my hands, I’d run around our neighbourhood, wasting precious film on camera-shy cats, blurry tadpoles, out-of-focus friends and my mother’s overexposed lilies. I’d also routinely cut off the heads of anyone taller than me if I couldn’t fit them in the frame.
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I’d like to think my picture-taking skills have improved since; now, I only decapitate someone once in a blue moon. Of course, I have a fancier camera and a bunch of spare memory cards now, but there’s something utterly captivating about old photographs that no digital camera or sinful smartphone could ever recreate.
I’m no longer an amateur in photography, and I’d like to think I’m not one for nostalgia, either. If you ask me, it’s the flaws in those old pictures — the grain, the fringing, the odd colours, the red eyes — that keep me coming back for more.
That’s probably why I was so drawn to The Rescued Film Project, which calls itself an archive of forgotten and lost pictures trapped in rolls of film.
The site is a catalogue of thousands of pictures from all over the world, dating all the way back to the 1930s. These photographs don’t come with captions, descriptions, or even a name; they’re developed from old rolls of decaying film, estranged from the photographers who shot them forever ago.
These rolls of film are so old that ghosts of soldiers appear and disappear across a rowboat on the open seas; blobs of electricity splatter across a churchyard; the silhouette of a dog tag hangs stiff over the hull of a steamship. In a way, these are defects - double exposures that ruin an image. But they feel like bits and pieces of untold history folding on top of each other in a kaleidoscope of emotion that words can’t encompass.
Always on the lookout for buried treasure, haunted mansions and a portal to another dimension. Pokémon master, ghostbuster, vampire hunter, romcom side character, first victim in a horror movie and Mean Girls candidate. I don’t make jokes unless I can regret them later. I spend most of my time waiting for dinner.