Exclusive – Part 1: ‪#‎FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives

If you are not familiar with the story yet, check out our first post from last week here


Finding a set of startlingly beautiful vintage photographs without a studio or author name on them is like finding canvases of a brilliant anonymous painter. And seeking out the lost creators of such stunning unattributed art is a crucial part for their unveiling to the public: authorship adds authenticity, context, and a story.

Richmond, VA, US-based photographer Meagan Abell is determined to locate the author and subjects of a set of transparencies she found in her local thrift store and give credit where it’s due.

The photographs from these transparencies are of beautiful, intriguing, carefully posed and created images from the mid-century.

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Meagan’s quest on social media with #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives has generated worldwide interest from both the photographic community and the Internet (even the BBC is interested). Through social media Meagan has gained a following of enthusiasts who have joined in to help her search, and a second set of transparencies linked to the first, have now been recovered.

With the second set of transparencies Meagan is another step closer to locating the author and subjects of those photographs. Despite the worldwide media coverage, Meagan remains focused on her original quest.

In this exclusive interview with Looks Like Film (LLF), Meagan reveals for the first time information about the second set of the transparencies, plus two new, previously unpublished, images from the set. Here’s Part 1 of our interview with Meagan.

1. When you first stumbled upon the first set of negatives, what went through your mind?

Well I had never seen what I thought were negatives in a medium format size (now known to be slide transparencies!), so initially I thought they were so intriguing just based on that. And hey, at $3 a pop, why not?

2. What did you like about the photographs when you first saw them?

Mostly the colors right off, and then looking closer I thought that the subject was very interesting. A woman full dressed walking into the waves? So odd!

3. What compeled you to investigate and find out their source?

As a fellow photographer, I wanted to give credit where it was due for these gorgeous images, and I was desperate to learn the story behind why these images were taken, and what the photographer was trying to create.

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4. Did you expect #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives to generate so much interest, not only in the photographic community but in the mainstream media? Why do you think this happened?

I thought hey, maybe someone will recognize these and can tell me who took them or who the women are. And if not, at least I have some beautiful images and a decoration for my apt. There was no way I thought this would go any farther than a few shares or so. But sure enough, the Internet loves a great mystery, and the whole world seems to be as intrigued as I was. Or maybe everyone still thinks it’s a hoax for a Meryl Streep movie, which I almost wish was true 😉

5. When you were notified by Elise (friends with Meagan) & Janelle via social media about the location where the photographs were taken, were you surprised? Considering they ended up in Richmond?

Yes and no. I already knew that it was more unlikely the types of rock formations/mountains in the images would be somewhere along the East Coast, plus I believed it to be dusk, not sunrise. As well, when people pass away, belongings can sometimes end up in estate or yard sales, which antique enthusiasts from all over the country will visit and buy up “lots” which are groups of items, that they find interesting. I’m sure many people have seen Storage Wars, and they know those folks will travel hundreds of miles to buy up lockers in hopes of finding treasures.

 

6. Can you tell me about the second set of transparencies that your local news reporter found?

The second set includes two strips of the transparencies*, one with 4 frames and the other with 3 frames. They also only have the numbers “431 6082” marked on the edges, which are more than likely to do with the emulsion batch. The images seem to have been taken AFTER the first set, because they are darker, and the sun is no longer visible on the horizon. One strip is of the woman in the blue dress sitting on the rocks and gazing in profile out to the sea, and the other looks like the silhouette of the lady in red, in which the photographer chose to focus on her reflection in a pool of water in the foreground, with herself out of focus behind it. Just to clarify-the scans that I posted online are the clearest of the batch. I straightened a couple of the frames, which cropped them slightly, but they are all square frames, all of the same size. Some of the images I didn’t post do have some color shifts, slight fogging, and some markings. When I originally posted these images, the goal was to find the women based on what they looked like, and not based on the film type. I do have folks who are taking a look at uncorrected scans and pictures of the transparencies to see if that will give us any clues. The film is actually believed to be Rexo 431 (film type), series 6082 (slides/transparencies) based on the marking numbers on the edges of the transparencies.

* discovered by Mark Holmberg at CBS6.

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