Unclaimed Memories on Film

March 1, 2009

Recently I stumbled upon old snapshots of unidentified people I can’t get out of my head.

The photos are on two web sites, waiting for someone to give names to faces. One site features more than 500 color images from film found in cameras at flea markets and second-hand stores. The other site consists of 44 black and white pictures that have haunted a man since he found the negatives at a garage sale 15 years ago.


In the photos I’ve viewed, the people often are posing while at leisure.  There’s nothing strikingly remarkable about them or the way they’re photographed. But not knowing anything about the people or the context of the moment their images were captured creates a mysterious and nostalgic aura. The lack of information makes me not just curious but care when I otherwise wouldn’t.

Looking at the photos reminds me of Philip K. Dick‘s influential  novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, on which the movie Blade Runner was based. Androids indistinguishable from humans were given implanted childhood memories, memories reinforced with false family photographs.

The images online represent real but anonymous memories adrift in the virtual world of the web, waiting to be claimed.