For many of us, a time capsule is simply a shoe box filled with memorable items. The time capsule Levi Bettwieser uncovered, however, was approximately 1,200 rolls of unprocessed film from the 1950’s, shot by a mysterious photographer named Paul.
As the creator of The Rescued Film Project, Bettwieser has been finding and recovering rolls of “lost and forgotten” film for years. To date, the project is responsible for developing nearly 18,000 images, and most notably for saving 31 rolls shot by an unknown soldier during WWII. Last year, Bettwieser acquired 66 bundles of undeveloped film from the 1950s, with many bundles containing over 30 rolls of film.
What was most peculiar about the discovery was the way in which the rolls were stored. Each roll was meticulously wrapped in foil, packaged with athletic tape, and then carefully labeled with details about the camera used, light modifiers, and photo descriptions. The rolls were then again packed tightly in cigar boxes and wrapped together in multiple layers of newspaper, aluminum foil, and more athletic tape and labels.
Due to the age and fragility of the film, the process to develop these rolls is extremely costly and time-consuming. So far only one roll has been developed and the project is partnering with Blue Moon Camera in Portland to work on the rest of Paul’s film. Volunteers were enlisted to help unpack and catalog the rolls, and Bettwiser is raising money and receiving donations on Indiegogo to cover costs.
Time is of the essence as the quality of the film continues to degrade and fade away. “We believe that these images deserve to be seen,” the project's team states, “so that the photographer's personal experiences can be shared. Forever marking their existence in history.”
To help with fund raising for this time-sensitive project, you can contribute via their Indiegogo campaign. Select prints of the project's recovered, historical photos are also available to purchase through their Etsy shop.
Scroll down to see some of the photographs recovered, as well as a video of Bettwieser unboxing his 66 bundles of film.