China Magazine

Lost & Found: forgotten memories – Found films in China

Found films in China – What happens if some old films are found in the debris of a city?

During this period Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, is working hard for changing the skyline. Every day there are new construction sites and the old urban area gets quickly demolished. In the city, there is also huge work in progress for the new, first underground line. While walking near a small river in the north-est area of the city without surprise I found out a street, once used by cars to reach some fishing facilities, was turned into a green area and all the facilities were demolished.

Walking around the ruins I saw a 35mm film and I took a picture of it, but after a while, I saw there were also a lot of other negatives and some 120mm. This was really unexpected because walking randomly in China I always see on the ground playing cards, toys, shoes, never negatives. Usually, I don’t pick up things that I find on the ground, but in this case, I thought “If I don’t pick them, of course, they will be destroyed since they were already abandoned by the owners.” All the 120mm and 35mm films were in terrible conditions, covered by dried mud, and dust.

Some pictures were broken, scratched, erased … I put everything in a plastic bag and I brought it home, washed the films with liquid soap and water, dried them gently with fingers, and roll out drying. It works perfectly with the 120mm but on the 35mm the emulsion on the negative gets out, I was able to recover only a few photos, so I stopped because afraid to damage the other 35mm pictures (So I still have the plastic bag full). As you can see the recovered 120mm pictures seem to be taken from the ’70s or early ‘80s, maybe a honeymoon … the only one seems to be older: a school trip. The 35mm recovered pictures are all portraits of a woman, clearly the same woman from the honeymoon in Beijing, maybe 10 years later. I gave a quick look at the other 35mm negatives and it seems that in the plastic bag I have all their photos life: I saw a little girl growing up … unfortunately, I don’t know how to save these negatives without erasing the photos. I’m sad about it. When I see this plastic bag with all these negatives, now I know that there is entire family life, I hope to save this film and maybe one day I can give the recovered photos to the original owners. We are in the internet era so everything is possible. Who knows!!!

Topics: abandoned places in China, hidden history

Dominique Musorrafiti

CHINA-UNDERGROUND. Ciao! My name is Dominique. I’m Italian and I’m proud to be a mix. My father was an Italian chemical engineer and high school teacher, with Greek and Polish heritage. My mother is Haitian, she was high school language teacher, with Dominican, Spanish, French, Portuguese, African and Native American heritage. Being a mix makes me appreciate to want to understand different cultures and lifestyles. I grew up in Italy, lived few years in Haiti, travel around main European capitals, lived seven years in China, six in Spain and UK. Traveling makes me feel that we can learn something from every situation in every part of the world.

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