News / Calgary

Calgary photographer salvaging images from perfect strangers’ old rolls of film

Azriel Knight is saving strangers’ memories, one roll of undeveloped film at a time.

For the past two years, the Calgary photographer has been searching thrift stores and garage sales and eBay for exposed rolls of film that have been long forgotten. He then develops the images and tries to figure out to whom they once belonged.

“The thing that’s amazing is that they’re things that nobody’s ever seen before,” Knight said. “When I pull the film out of the water, even the photographer has never seen the shots.”

The photos aren’t always scintillating – Knight says he sees a lot birthday and baby pictures – but every so often he finds a set of images that grab his attention and just beg to have the mystery behind them solved, like the black and white shots of a 1970s New Jersey rock band on a couple of rolls of film that came with a vintage camera he bought online.

“The pictures were really clear,” he said. “I was really surprised at the quality of the film.”

 Azriel Knight with a roll of salvaged film

Azriel Knight with a roll of salvaged film

Knight posted the photos online along with a video explaining the clues he had garnered from the images, and eventually was contacted by a man who knew the owner of the club where the photos were taken decades earlier.

That soon led him to the members of The Bad Land Band, themselves, who were still together.

“I was floored when I saw this,” lead singer Rich Gulya wrote to Knight, thanking him for developing and posting the pictures.

“So many great memories,” sound man Bill Sasse wrote. “Thanks for sharing.”

The oldest photos Knight has recovered came in a box camera he figures dates back to the 1930s. The film had mostly degraded but three images at the centre of the roll were salvageable.

The pictures depict a unidentified family, Turtle Mountain, and a sign memorializing the Frank Slide. Knight connected the photos with a museum and historical society in the Crowsnest Pass area.

“It was neat to be able just find little pieces of history,” he said.

More of his “Mysterious Developments” can be found at his website: MysteriousDev.com.

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