When we look at old photographs — whether or not we know the person behind the lens or the subject(s) in front of it — we try to discern and decide what was going on in that captured moment. We examine the image and try to guess at what was happening as the shutter release was pressed. We look for clues and try to guess when and where the photo was taken. We wonder about the photographer’s relationship with the subject(s) and whether they knew they were being photographed. If, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps that’s roughly equivalent to a couple hundred questions we might ask ourselves while looking at one…
Looking at a photo, we wonder:
Was it partially posed or completely candid? Was there a lighting or camera malfunction, light leak, user error, or accidental double-exposure? Has the film negative or photographic print aged, faded, lost contrast, or color-shifted over time? If so, why — was it tucked away among many others in a hot attic, left alone in a grease and sawdust-covered box on a garage shelf, or forgotten in a damp, musty darkroom with the photographer’s equipment and ephemera when they shuffled off their mortal coil?
Of course, there may be clear, obvious, indisputable elements of a photograph, which can only be interpreted ONE way which all (or most) viewers would agree upon. But beyond the obvious, viewing a photograph (or any form of art) is a subjective, speculative, interpretive, thought-provoking, and emotional event. It is an event filtered through each viewer’s life experiences, understandings, biases, leanings, philosophies, perceptions, and perspectives.
Therefore, each viewer of a photograph may see, feel, and imagine something unique and personal about an image, which may or may not resemble the truth about what was going on when the shutter snapped to capture the moment!
All of this is equally true for photographs which might be “art” and those that are run-of-the-mill, everyday, generic, mundane, ill-composed, badly-lit, or just plain boring snapshots. Inevitably, when we gaze at any photograph — especially of unknown origin, time, place — our minds wander into wondering and we always end up asking the BIG question:
WWTT = What Were They Thinking?
And when a photo’s subject(s) and/or scenario are sufficiently odd, bizarre, astonishing, provocative, rude, nude, depicting questionable motives and/or behavior in front of and/or behind the lens, we add those three letters — WTF — to the end of WWTT and get the following acronym which is also a web address (that you should definitely bookmark!) which leads to this page!
When we prowl the auctions, estate, yard, garage, and tag sales to buy cameras, kits, and photographic ephemera, we are always delighted when we find undeveloped, unseen film, forgotten photographs, and other one-of-a-kind (“OOAK”) items. Over time, we’ve also spent significant time and money collecting vintage photographs, with a special focus on OOAK Polaroids from the 1950’s > 1990’s, many of which we will post on our Instagram feed along with images of the vintage cameras we buy, use, and sell.
So, in the spirit of WWTT + WTF, this page is all about the found film, prints, instant photos, and other photographic miscellany from our collection — enjoy!
Links to posts about found film and photographs:
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got some found film, negatives, photos, or vintage OOAK Polaroids you’d like to share!