What happens to the photographs taken over a lifetime that no longer have a home in which to be framed on the wall or treasured inside the family albums? Who will appreciate and preserve those anonymous snapshots of moments and strangers in time?
It’s a sort of subculture that exists at garage sales or flea markets and more recently on the internet; a subculture of lost photo collectors. They find value in forgotten personal photographs of complete strangers, and collect and sell them to other strangers. Scanned and uploaded onto Tumblrs or sold in bulk for a few dollars on eBay; every time a pair of eyes observes the lives of these anonymous photographers and their subjects, their memory is kept alive.
One such online presence dedicated to anonymous photographs is a Tumblr by the name of Look at Me, a beautiful and touching collection that started with a few photos found by Frederic Bonn and Zoe Deleu in a Paris street in 1998. “Showing off or embarrassed, smug, sometimes happy, the people in these photos are strangers to us,” writes the photo collector, “They can’t help but be interesting, as stories with only an introduction.”
Discovering, preserving and re-envisaging forgotten vintage photographs from unknown photographers is also the passion of Project B founders Barbara Levine and Paige Ramey. “Paying homage to the mysterious power of the anonymous photograph”, Project B specializes in transforming the photos they find stacked in a discarded box or at the flea market and making them available in limited edition large scale prints.
You might also be interested in meeting The Photo Man. Mark Kologi has collected and sold literally millions of forgotten personal photos of complete strangers. This is his story in a beautifully shot short film produced and directed by Ben Kitnick. Warning: this will tug at your heart strings…
“Unknown Fat Lady, c. 1925” “Man Fish” “Suburban Picnic circa 1970” “Vintage Photograph Album Cover, c.1920”
All of the exquisite vintage photographs you see in this article are available from Project B in giant-sized prints to hang on your wall.