The Rescued Film Project
January 27, 2015 5:57 AM   Subscribe

The Rescued Film Project found 31 rolls of undeveloped film shot by a soldier during WWII. The WWII photos
posted by COD (21 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks for posting. The pictures and the project are fascinating.
posted by 724A at 6:19 AM on January 27, 2015

Some of the photos are from Fort Indiantown Gap, probably the demobilization center for the soldier. This video compares recovered photos with the base as it appears today.
posted by zamboni at 6:25 AM on January 27, 2015

This is really cool!

I'm curious about the copyright notice at the bottom of the page, not because I dispute it, but just because I can't figure it out. How come they can claim copyright of found or donated pictures? How does that work? There is not notice about it on the contributeFILM page. Can anyone comment?
posted by OmieWise at 6:27 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was wondering the same thing about the copyright. Does buying the film transfer copyright?
posted by COD at 6:33 AM on January 27, 2015

I love how the most interesting things are almost always stuff that folks at the time might not even consider.

I've seen pictures of Yalta a zillion times.

I've never seen a "Welcome Home Well Done" tugboat or a 'Telephone Center.'

Odd that the most disposable ephemera become, in time, the most precious historical artifacts (because of their very disposability!)
posted by leotrotsky at 6:36 AM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]

Not one photo with Hellboy or Captain America in it. GOSH.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:27 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

#41, the soldier with the dog: awwwwwww.
posted by TwoStride at 7:32 AM on January 27, 2015

No, physical possession of negatives doesn't grant copyright. I'm interested in there claim too.
posted by Mitheral at 7:51 AM on January 27, 2015

#41, the soldier with the dog: awwwwwww.

From a dog's point of view, these pictures are like five hundred years old. So photos. Much old. Very history. wow.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:52 AM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

I asked a professional photographer friend. Copyright on unpublished work is 70 years after the death of the creator. Also, if the photographer was active duty and "on-the-clock" when he was taking pictures they are probably public domain.
posted by COD at 8:11 AM on January 27, 2015

I had my own discovery of WWII photos of my father (not undeveloped, although there were other 50+ years old non-WWII exposed film of his that I had developed). He was on a Coast Guard troop transport that traveled the world. I posted them as a MeFi project a few years back.
posted by ShooBoo at 8:17 AM on January 27, 2015

I'm curious about the copyright notice

They scanned them. They own the copyright on the scans.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:56 AM on January 27, 2015

Really? That seems weird, since under that rubric I could scan a photo out of a Richard Avedon book and assert copyright over it.

(I'm not trying to be snarky, I really don't understand that.)
posted by OmieWise at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2015

I'm curious about the copyright notice

They scanned them. They own the copyright on the scans.
I don't understand how this can be true. The copyright of the images should be in effect still (death + 70 years). Can I just buy any CD and rip it to MP3/FLAC/whatever and claim that I have the copyright to the digital files?

FWIW, this was posted to HN and for a while the top comment was a comment about the dubious nature of the copyright claim.

What gets me most about this is the first thought this guy had about posting these photos to the web was "better put a large copyright notice up saying that this is my creative work, don't want someone else to stumble across these photographs and start copying them willy-nilly as if they own them" -- really‽
posted by Brian Puccio at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2015

the video is really nicely made, and it's great to see actual film being developed. probably something a whole generation has never seen and has no awareness of.
posted by TMezz at 10:27 AM on January 27, 2015

I don't think they can claim copyright in the scans either. See Bridgeman Art Library v. Corel. Although that was about public domain images.
posted by interplanetjanet at 11:15 AM on January 27, 2015

Bridgeman v. Corel does not apply. An existing claim of copyright could be made by the original photographer, or his estate. It is common for limited reproduction rights to be licensed by a copyright holder, photographers do this all the time. They could argue that these are orphaned works. I would counter that there is commercial value in orphan works being unavailable. It preserves the value of properly licensed works, by reducing competition from free works.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:38 AM on January 27, 2015

the video is really nicely made, and it's great to see actual film being developed. probably something a whole generation has never seen and has no awareness of.

Indeed, including journalists. Not long ago I saw an article about a century-old box of "negatives" being found in Antarctica. The lede, by writer content provider DL Cade is as follows:
Almost one hundred years after a group of explorers set out across the frozen landscape of Antarctica to set up supply depots for famed explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, a box of 22 never-before-seen exposed but unprocessed negatives taken by the group’s photographer has been unearthed in one of those shacks, preserved in a block of ice.
That creaking framework of a sentence raises all sorts of questions, not all of them syntactical. It seems DL Cade understands a great deal more about photography than I do, and I wish DL Cade would share more knowledge. Specifically, I am curious as to how a negative is created with no processing of the exposed film. If indeed they actually are negatives, I also wonder where Shackleton's support team found the time and resources to erect a darkroom in Antarctica. Or if they are not negatives, I wonder why someone who knows Thing One about the topic could not have proofed the story for DL Cade.

I like the rescued photos idea very much. I spent a decade or more with a Pentax SP1000 SLR with me almost every time I left the house, and while it has sat almost unused for a decade once digital cameras arrived in my life, I occasionally run across exposed film that has never been developed. Occasionally I develop rolls to find photos of friends who are long-gone, or houses I lived in that have fallen beneath the wrecking ball. Last time I found a bunch it was kind of a disappointment: it turned out that I had forgotten about a couple of rolls from this project so as I no longer have a darkroom, I paid handsomely for 72 more photos of the same damn tree.

While I appreciate the convenience of digital cameras, I do not get them. When the Pentax failed to produce a good photo for some mechanical reason, I could troubleshoot, take it apart and restore it to good order. When a digital camera does not work, I am baffled but (unless the battery is dead) I have no recourse or means to fix it.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:10 PM on January 27, 2015

Interesting (if poorly-developed) shots of Normandy defenses and what appears to be a mulberry dock.

Also, the transit camp in Pennsylvania manages to look much more bleak and miserable than liberated France.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:26 PM on January 27, 2015

Interesting (if poorly-developed)

Silver nitrate has a pretty good ability to store a latent image, but the substrate can deteriorate, and there are obvious problems with fogging. Even the opaque wrapper around the spools of 120 film are not completely opaque, so you get artifacts like the image of the text on the wrapper that are transmitted onto the film, like an x-ray. They should have scanned the wrappers so they could use them as a subtraction layer in Photoshop.

A lot of the mottling and other image defects could be fixed (somewhat) by digital image enhancement or just plain old retouching. But a lot of this stuff is pretty mundane so it is better to focus restoration efforts on truly historic images. I am sure that part of the publicity for this project is intended to attract interest in restoration.
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:50 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

These photos are an awesome view into the past and I'm glad they have been brought into the light. #67 was an (obviously unintended) work of art, with the soldiers in the foreground being reduced to mere silhouettes against the "WELCOME HOME" backdrop. I'm sure it felt that way for some of those guys.

charlie don't surf: "a lot of this stuff is pretty mundane so it is better to focus restoration efforts on truly historic images."

I know what you're getting at there, but I disagree. Those Nagasaki photos are amazing and historic and worth preserving, but I think too tight a focus on preserving and restoring "historic" images at the cost of "mundane" ones risks losing the baby in the bath water.

Imagine that they had photography back in the Roman Empire. I would find more value in mundane shots of everyday life in the Roman Forum than in posed shots of Roman notables, however important the notables were to "history", and more information in a candid shot of life in a Legionary camp somewhere than close-up shots of dead bodies on the battlefield at Cannae.

Schliemann at Troy was focused on digging up the historic stuff. He has been cursed by later archaeologists for effectively taking a wrecking ball to the site (he even demolished part of the very city he was looking for, thinking it looked too recent), ruining it for today's more nuanced investigators.

We have lost a lot of ancient literature because the monks responsible for the monastery libraries were more interested in preserving ecclesiastical works than rubbish like Greek poetry, plays and philosophy, or letters home written by Roman travellers. That's not to say that the monks were wrong. They had to choose what they could preserve, and they based their choices on their own priorities; but from our vantage hundreds of years on, we can see that perhaps it would have been better to preserve the last copy (as it turns out) of some profane but often-referred-to document rather than an extra copy of one more well-circulated argument on the nature of God.

That said, I can only chuckle sympathetically at ricochet bullet's chagrin over paying handsomely to develop 72 extra shots of the same tree. Still, the only way to discover what was on those rolls was to develop them. What if one roll had contained the last surviving image of an ancestor, or an ancestral home?
posted by Autumn Leaf at 6:52 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

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