When Rescued Film Project founder Levi Bettwieser ran across 71 rolls of undeveloped film during an auction in Ohio last year, he had no idea what kind of historical treasure he had found.
Dating to the World War II years, the film’s condition was unknowable – “there was no telling how high quality the images are in the film, or whether there are any images at all,” Bettwieser said on a video describing the work he did on the decades-old records.
But the images were there, and they are striking: The day-to-day lives of men at war, gathered in huge numbers, waiting for wherever fate would take them.
And interspersed among the daily life scenes are reminders of the deadly business at hand.
On the Rescued Film Project’s video, Bettwiesser sums up the challenges – and satisfactions – of working with a trove as old as the World War II film he bought last year, simply hoping for the best.
“It’s a lot harder to work with than maybe more modern film,” he said.
But the goal is preservation of the past for posterity.
If the Rescued Film Project is unable to find the original photographer or the photographer’s family – as seems likely with the World War II film and the unknown photographer — the project’s overriding goal of historic preservation can be maintained.
The images, he said, were “important to someone, at some point.”
And when it was American soldiers in World War II, it was important to the whole world.
Check out the Rescued Film Project’s video of the process of resucing the World War II images here.
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