Joan Ruppert's father passed away when she was just a child, but thanks to a shoebox full of negatives, she's been able to learn more about his life as a young man. Taken when he was just out of high school, these pictures show a passion for photography and are an incredible glimpse at life in Chicago just before World War II.
The collection of photo negatives was passed down to Ruppert from her mother long ago; they sat untouched until they almost met their demise. The images, which Ruppert has called The Shoebox Negatives, risked being destroyed in a household flood several years back—before she'd really had a chance to examine them. “In a panic, I dumped them all into a bucket with water and Photo-Flo, strung them to dry and put them away in a newer, drier shoebox,” she tells My Modern Met.
More recently, Ruppert scanned these photo negatives, which she believes were originally developed in a makeshift darkroom, and began publishing them online. Taken starting in 1938, they show her father's friends and family as they go through life. From posed portraits to candid shots of his high school buddies joking around, they harken back to a more innocent time.
As an avid photographer, Ruppert's father was eager to document the world around him. And in doing so, he left behind a time capsule for his daughter and now people across the globe. Although Ruppert was never able to ask her father about the folks in his photographs and hear him tell the stories behind them, working on the project has certainly brought her closer to him.
The Shoebox Negatives are also proof that photographs are to be cherished and preserved. In this digital world, these physical images are precious reminders of the past.