Ghosts Appear on Lost Film Developed after 60 Years in the Camera

Every time I visited my parents in Florida, my father showed me an old camera that he said had exposed film in it that could be more than 60 years old. He had no idea what images could be on the film, if any even remained after so long. I finally convinced him to let me take it to a lab to develop it, hoping I could find one in New York City before the last one went out of business. I contacted a friend who has been a photographer since the film days, and I knew he could refer me to a lab. He asked me lots of questions about the film, but all I could tell him is that “Kodak” and “Verichrome” were printed on the roll. That was enough for him to recommend Kelton Labs. They specialize in processing and printing black-and-white photographs.

I dropped the film off, and the man I dealt with studied it intently, possibly because it was so old that he had never seen a roll like it. I had to make a choice. Film as old as this tends to fog up. The lab could develop it as-is, fog and all, or they could do a clip test which sacrifices half a frame to develop it first to see how much defogging agent to apply to the remainder. I chose to risk that half frame for the best possible results with the remaining frames.

About two weeks later, I returned to the lab to pick up the developed negatives and contact sheets. There were four photographs, two with never-before-seen images of my grandparents in a rowboat, one with my grandmother and her best friend in lounge chairs, and one that appears to be a motel parking lot. The story that emerges seems to be of a resort vacation. If anyone can date these photos based on the cars in the motel lot, please let me know.

I scanned the contact sheets and shared them with my family. My father was especially moved, commenting that they appeared to him as ghosts of his parents, with the effect heightened by the faded images and the strong vignette. My brothers and I were amazed at how much my father now looks like his father then. My grandfather died before I was born, and seeing these photos makes me wonder more about what he was like.

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