Art Crush: Levi Bettwieser, The Rescued Film Project

I’ve been bewitched lately by the magic of photography, of time stolen and forced to stand still, by artists that are working beyond the medium we consider it to be today. The farther I search for these people, the more I am convinced I am opening some secret world. And this week’s find – Rescued Film Project has me thinking, I must be right.

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Levi Bettwieser is the sole person responsible for the Rescued Film Project. Already working as a photographer and videographer, he often went thrifting and bought old cameras. He says a lot of the time there would still be film inside, half a roll, an entire roll, sometimes one photograph taken and then forgotten by the owner. From this hobby his project was born. Inspired by an intense sense of curiosity he began collecting and developing these found rolls of film. “Once I saw the images, I thought people would want to remember these, I wanted to try and reconnect people with their pictures.” And this notion remains the driving force behind his work.

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Rescued Film is still in its infancy. This began as a personal pursuit some two years ago but has only been public for the last six months. Bettwieser has been receiving film from all over the country, the UK, Australia, and tells me a few rolls are on the way from the Czech Republic. The rolls date anywhere from the 30’s-90’s, and he says, “I don’t care when the picture was taken, it’s all relative to the human experience.” He develops film that has been compromised, is no longer in production, or that would seem otherwise useless to most people. To Bettwieser, he sees a treasure.

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His most recent and arguably most exciting batch came to him from Ohio–31 rolls shot by an American WWII soldier over 70 years ago. One of the rolls came wrapped in two letters, one hand written on parchment from American red cross, and the other typed reading like a segment of something larger. The images he recovers are incredible, and it is startling to think they would have otherwise been lost. This video here shows the nerve-racking process of developing the first images from this batch.

Since posting this video less than two weeks ago it has gone viral and Bettwieser is getting attention from all angles. “I’d like it to develop into a user generated research base, to research images or geotag images so we can as a collective find out where these pictures have come from and reconnect them, we are looking at producing an app to help with this.”

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You can help support the Rescued Film Project in a few ways, 1. Spread the word, tell your friends and your grandparents, and follow on Instagram. 2. Donate film, it costs you nothing and everyone that donates film receives a digital copy of the negatives. 3. Donate some cash money, because this project is not yet funded and chemicals and time are damn expensive. You can do all of these things by clicking here.

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L’Agent Goodies…