Rescued Film Project Interview : Levi Bettwieser

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Chances are if you’re a follower of photography news online, you’ve heard about the Rescued Film Project. Last year they made digital headlines with the discovery and development of undeveloped film from a WWII photographer, and now they’ve got their hands on one of their biggest projects yet: an estimated 1,200 rolls of undeveloped film from one photographer in the 1950s, known only as “Paul”. While RFP often does their own developing of rescued films, the size of this project compelled them to reach out to us to help with development, and we’re honored to be involved in the project. Working on this film made us curious about the whole process for Rescued Film Project, and many of our customers felt the same. We reached out to RFP and Levi Bettwieser, Founder of The Rescued Film Project, very generously answered some of our questions on the 1,200 rolls of film, RFP’s history, and his goals for the project.

 

About the 1,200 rolls

Blue Moon Camera: Let’s start off on the project we’re developing now. How did you come across all this film? 

Levi: I purchased the film by winning several (around 20) online auctions.

BMC: Do you have any information about the photographer and his life, other than the notes that he’s left for us?

Levi: All we know is that his name is Paul and he was a steelworker from East Chicago Indiana.

One of the developed images off of Paul's film.

One of the developed images off of Paul’s film.

BMC: Do you think the photographer possibly still alive?

Levi: We don’t believe so.  From what we understand we purchased the film from a seller that was hired by the photographer’s family.

BMC: What will happen to the film after it’s developed?

Levi: Our first step is to make the images publicly available for viewing in some kind of online gallery.  Then we hope to get in contact with the family to begin production on a documentary of some kind.

BMC: That sounds great. What are your hopes for the future of these images?

Levi: All I hope is that the images are rescued and these moments are remembered and enjoyed since Paul will never be able to see them.  How that is done be it through gallery installments, book(s), video remains to be seen.

One of the images off of Paul’s film.

 

About Rescued Film Project

BMC: Let’s step back for a minute. What inspired you to begin the Rescued Film Project in the first place?

Levi: As a film photographer who also processes my own work, and after noticing that many cameras at thrift stores/flea markets/antique shops still contained rolls of film, I began acquiring them to process the film out of curiosity.  After processing my first batch and seeing that a large number of the rolls had viable images, I realized that there must still be thousands of rolls out there that still contain images.

BMC: About how many people make up the Rescued Film Project?

Levi: It’s primarily just myself.  But I do have a few volunteers that help with things like social posting and obscure projects like the “Paul” film.

BMC: Where does your film generally come from?

Levi: Most of it comes from myself directly purchasing it from someone, usually in another part of the country/world.  But we do get lots of film donations.

BMC: Have you ever been able to reconnect subjects or photographers with film that you’ve rescued?

Levi: Once through our Instagram page a girl recognized her father in an image. (See below; click on “comments” for the exchange.)

 

 

BMC: Very cool. What’s your favorite rescued image (so far)?

Levi: There can’t be just one.  We’ve rescued over 18,000 images so far and I love so many for so many different reasons.

One of the rescued images from RFP’s first rescued batch of film two years ago, and still a favorite.

Thanks for talking with us, Levi!

To contribute to the saving of Paul’s film, please visit, donate to, and/or share the Indiegogo for the project. If you’re not already, you can follow the Rescued Film Project’s updates on their website, Facebook, Etsy, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr. If you know of film that you’d like to donate, please be sure to get in touch with them!

 

A recent rescued photo from India

A recent rescued photo from India

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