Inside Street Photography

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Friday, 26 Apr 2024  |  Reading time:  6 mins  | Read online

Lost and Found

Larry Racioppo

I’ve been reading The New York Times regularly for years. Every now and then a story really captures my attention, like this one featuring a Nikomat camera lost in the Andes for almost 50 years. Most readers, I think, were fascinated by this adventure story which ended as a mystery. However, I was interested in
the roll of film found in the camera and the 24 photos made from the camera’s exposed negatives. The Times reproduced two full pages of them in their moisture-damaged, color-shifted glory.

They reminded me of the many badly distressed photographs I’ve been finding regularly on New York City streets, like these two:

I suspect that sometimes a photo is lost or dropped by mistake. But all too often photos in plastic sleeves and even entire family albums are just thrown into trashcans or the street.

There is a website focused on returning lost photos to their families: Its founder, whose name I have been unable to find, describes the site’s mission as follows:

“To collect and preserve historical photos and other media, make the material available to the public online at no cost, and return the material to surviving family members on request.”

I found this album, with pages full of a young man’s travels, in a dumpster.

Its photo locations range from NYC rooftops to the Panama Canal. Although I wondered whose album this was, and how it wound up in a Brooklyn dumpster, I just added it to my personal collection of found art.

Annie Correal was more curious when she found a family album put out with the trash in Brooklyn one night in 2011. Six years later, she traveled to Raleigh to give the album to a family member.

It’s not only photographs, though. I’ve also found some very interesting paintings on the street.

And I’m not alone. In 2011, painter Jason Osborne created Abandoned Paintings, an Instagram account for discarded art. “Updated daily with submissions from around the world, it pays a final tribute to these disowned artworks before they fade into the trash heap of history.” wrote Hakim Bishara in HYPERALLERGIC on June 3, 2021.

Of all my “finds” I think of this one most often. What happened?

Did the photographer misload the camera, or drop it while loading the film? Or open the camera while rewinding the exposed film?

Never knowing what may have been on this roll of film reminds me of an old poem from high school English class:

“Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'” - John Greenleaf Whittier, Maud Muller, 1856

About the Columnist

Larry’s portrait by Anna Delaney

When I returned to South Brooklyn in 1970 after two years in California as a VISTA Volunteer, I was 22 years old with no plans and a $30 camera I barely knew how to use. I took a course at the School of Visual Arts, a job with the telephone company and began to photograph my family and friends. Things worked out better than I could have expected. I’ve been making photographs for over 50 years, and have some things I’d like to share.

 Readers can respond directly to me –

Grab Your Free Issue of Street Photography Magazine

Pretty early on, we started offering a free issue of Street Photography Magazine to anyone who wanted to give the magazine a try before subscribing. Recently, we swapped out the older free issue for a newer one, namely, the August 2023 issue. What's in it?

  • Get to know featured photographer Paul Reid in the article "Monochrome Mad." His journey from working that 9-5 to actually making a living out of photography (including street photography!) is fascinating and touching, and he shares some darn good tips on how to take stellar street portraits.
  • Randall Romano shares an article called "Creating Photographic Series and Projects," which offers some useful insights on the process of starting, refining, and finishing photographic projects.
  • Kornél Kocsány of wonderzofphotography talks about one of his favorite places to shoot in the article "Japan: A Discovery through Street Photography."
  • Our colomnist Larry Racioppo also contributed an article to this issue called "Return Visit to NYC," where he shares some street shots from NYC in 1969 that he recently revisited.
  • Former journalist and magazine editor Carey Winfrey talks about the challenges and joys of shooting street photography in a familiar place in the article, "Capturing the Familiar."
  • In the regular feature, Street Shooters of the Month, you'll see eye catching shots from around the world.

If you aren't a subscriber yet, get your free copy of this issue below. If you are a subscriber already, thank you for your support! Feel free to share the link with your photog friends or anyone you know who has an interest in street or documentary photography.

Happy shooting y'all! ✌️

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