In 2016, photographer and archivist Levi Bettwieser, who runs the Rescued Film project, put out a call for sponsorship. He had come into possession of 66 bundles of unprocessed, exposed film and needed help to cover the costs of developing it for archival purposes.
Each bundle contained between 8 and 36 rolls of film, with a total estimated at 1,200 rolls, all of which were shot by the same photographer in the 1950s: a man named Paul. Each roll, once exposed, had been placed back in a box with a hand written note detailing its contents. Then the box was wrapped in several layers of aluminum foil and athletic tape. Then the photographer wrote a note on the athletic tape, detailing what was on the film.
Once the photographer had enough rolls like this, they were packed tightly in a cigar box then the cigar box was wrapped in multiple layers of newspaper, aluminum foil, and athletic tape and then once again labeled with the contents. The photographer seemingly didn’t have the resources to process the films, but it was important to him that he document and preserve the life of his family.
Since 2016 the project has successfully processed and digitised the images; you can see some of the results on the Rescued Film website. Levi has the following to say about how working on the project has affected him as a photographer.
What Rescued Film has shown me is that we used to take pictures when they meant something. But now, we flood our lives with taking pictures of moments so that we can share them with others and so that we can get “likes”.
These images I’m rescuing just constantly remind me that these moments were important, even though they were seemingly insignificant. Someone who only had, maybe, nine pictures wanted to remember that one moment. I’d rather be in the moment and actually feel the experience than try to spend time capturing it and maybe miss out on the experience.Levi Bettwieser, in an interview for BBC Wales