Found Photo: ET Phone Home

I must confess that I love going to estate sales. And yard sales, and garage sales, and moving sales. And pretty much any kind of “everything-must-go” or going-out-of-business sale — at a home, office, warehouse, or factory!

When visiting such sellouts and selloffs, my focus (photo-pun intended) is on finding cameras and related gear. But what I love most is finding unexpected, unusual, interesting, amusing things. Especially when a found item or object gives me some sense of a person or family; a glimpse, a snapshot, a moment in their life.

As previously mentioned on the Other People’s Photos and What Were They Thinking pages, my absolute favorite things to find are photographs and related ephemera. A photo is literally a “glimpse” and actually a “snapshot” of someone’s life. It’s a fixed point in space, a frozen moment in time, and deeply fascinating to me.

Recently, I went to an “estate” sale at the home of a retired professional photographer. I found some cool stuff, including a Cambo 4×5 view camera (without a lens), studio accessories, and lots of random “photographica.” Preparing to purchase, the guy running the sale told me to check the garage, because there was much more photo stuff there. I headed down immediately…

Wow — the rest of the studio was in the garage! An eight-foot, heavy-duty camera stand, pro lights, lighting stands, and boxes of miscellany. Unfortunately, all too big and bulky, or rendered obsolete by the passage of time, for me to consider. So, I headed back upstairs to check out what I already set aside.

Walking through debris scattered on the floor (typical of any estate sale’s final hours), I noticed a face-down photo covered with dust and dirt. I could tell from the back of the photo it was from a Polaroid Spectra camera. After picking it up, dusting it off, and flipping it over, the digital date stamp on the front told me it was shot in a Spectra ProCam, specifically.

The badly-scratched, scuffed Polaroid I found on the floor was a portrait. The subject is a dour-faced, shaved-head (bald), youngish (30’s-40’s) man, sitting at table with a partially eaten bagel on waxed-paper in front of him. At the bottom of the photograph, written with an indelible marker, it reads, “E.T. PHONE HOME“.

If there’s anything I love more than a great found photo, it’s one with a caption, an inscription, or some other form of handwritten note. To me, it’s a view into the world of the photographer and their subject. It’s a mystery to unravel, a clue to consider, a code to decipher. Let the speculation commence!

What’s the story behind this photo and its cryptic inscription?

My best guess: the photographer grabbed his Polaroid ProCam — typically used only by serious and/or professional shutterbugs — to record a visit by his son, who was annoyed at being photographed mid-bagel. I sense it was not the son’s first time being annoyed at his photographer father…

What do you think is going on in this photograph? Comment below…

Hope you enjoyed this “found-film” Polaroid Spectra instant photo!

[C+F] Cameras+Films

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