Early Mistakes & Lasting Lessons

Part 3

I’d just returned to Los Angeles with my first seven cameras and now had the courage to finally get that first found camera – the disposable from the bench developed. but before I could do that, I’d have to get the film out of the cameras.

it had been, well… a really long time since I’d used a 35mm camera. in fact, I don’t think I’d ever owned one. in college I had an Advantix camera that I carried around with me for a few years, but the only 35mm I’d ever used was my Dad’s. shooting with a camera was relatively easy … but loading and more importantly UNloading were both foreign to me.

these cameras were all new to me and I didn’t know many things. did they work? could I manually rewind them? I wasn’t sure. the first step was getting batteries. since I live near Hollywood Blvd. there are a fair amount of tourist-trap-markets around. I figured there would be a good chance these places would have the batteries needed for an odd assortment of cameras.

I put the cameras in a bag and began to wander down the boulevard. in hindsight I probably could have bought all the batteries at CVS… but maybe I wanted an adventure? at any rate, after a few stores I had all the batteries needed. I took them home and proceed to try and rewind the cameras.

this worked. mostly.

there were two cameras I couldn’t rewind. maybe they were broken? maybe I just wasn’t pressing the button correctly? whatever the reason I decided to unload them by hand… this was my first mistake. but it wouldn’t be my last.

I went into my bathroom, and while it was the darkest part of my apartment, it was by no means ways “dark”. I then proceed to open the first camera, pull out the film, and stuff it into a manila envelope. (*sigh* this is so, so the wrong thing to do, it pains me to write it, but it is what I did.)

after unloading the cameras, I took my hill-billy sack of film, and the canisters that had properly rewound to the local CVS. I tried to explain that the envelope was “full of film” would need to be opened in a “dark room.” I’m not entirely sure they got that… and honestly it probably wouldn’t have made a difference. (if I had to guess I’m pretty sure I’d already ruined the film. either while unloading it, or when I initially found it.)

a couple days later I picked up the photos. the results were disappointing. out of the eight cameras, I only got photos from three. and one had just eight photos on it.

the other five rolls of film were simply thrown out by CVS. as were the “bad” frames on the negatives they did print.

something about getting rid of a customer’s negatives seemed odd to me. how did I KNOW there wasn’t something on those rolls? just because the CVS lab tech didn’t think it was a good photo… didn’t mean it wasn’t an image I’d want.

here’s an example of how they cropped the “good” part of an image… and what the actual photograph should have been.



who knows how many interesting images they deemed “not worthy” and discarded?

still, the photos I did receive were fascinating. the sad woman with the puppy, a smiling girl, a group of friends out for a night of bowling, two boys preparing for a formal dance, and a baseball team relaxing after a win. I wanted to know more about these stories, I wanted to know more about the people in them, and I wanted to find MORE cameras.

but I knew that if I was going to continue this project, I needed to up my game.

first, no opening the backs of cameras to check for film. I would look through the window. if I could see a roll inside, there was NO REASON to open the back. (seriously why did I ever do that?)

second, I needed to find a dark room to unload the cameras. my apartment leaked light like a sieve. I couldn’t risk ruining the film when unloading it.

finally, I needed a better lab. somewhere that catered to professional photographers, not amateurs. while I was most definitely an amateur, I wanted a place that wouldn’t make executive decisions… and would follow my requests.

even though I’d made some mistakes, I wasn’t discouraged. I knew there was something to this “found-camera” thing. I didn’t know what it was… but I planned on continuing down the road until I found out.

the journey of finding cameras was just beginning… read about my burgeoning “Obsession With Collection” in Part 4.