Photographer Levi Bettwieser has an unusual passion: he hunts down and develops old film rolls left inside vintage cameras or forgotten by their owners in the backs of musty drawers. He sees himself as “rescuing” the images from oblivion. “I believe if we weren’t actually searching for and finding these rolls of film, they could be lost forever,” he explains in a new short film that chronicles his most remarkable find yet.
Bettwieser is usually lucky to find a couple of rolls shot by the same photographer. But last year, he received 31 undeveloped rolls of film taken by a soldier more than 70 years ago, during World War II. They had evocative, hand-written titles like “French funeral,” “Start of train trip,” and “1947.” Some were wrapped in deeply personal letters. “I’ve always had a lonesome life, dreaming of success and love,” one note confessed.