After a year and a half back into film photography, I figured the day would come when I buy a camera with a roll of film in it. This day came in June, when I bought a Minolta Freedom Zoom 160 Date (also known as Riva Zoom 160) off of eBay. When I received it, I noticed the green of Fuji C200 in the little window on the back. The roll was about half exposed. I rewound it, and after determining that yes, the camera does work, I sent off the roll to be developed and waited in anticipation. The Freedom Zoom 160 was released around 2002, so the film could very well be nearing twenty years old. Will there be anything on it? And what will these images hold?
I admit that it’s a bit voyeuristic to do this. I don’t know who owned this camera before me. I don’t know what these photos could be. It could be very personal. It could even be pornographic. Or maybe I’ll be seeing things I shouldn’t see, like evidence of a crime. Now twenty years later someone will be coming after me, because I know too much. Or maybe it will just be random shots of this mystery person’s life, a collection of the mundane. Images that would only mean something to the person taking them and the people in the photos. It would be fun to try to piece together a story with only photos providing clues.
I got it back, and yes, there were pictures! I was surprised how well they came out, most everything looked correctly exposed and colors good. And yep, it was no amateur porn or photos of a gruesome murder, just photos from someone’s day-to-day life.
I don’t know who took these photos, nor the people in them. I can just take educated guesses. The photos look like sometime from 2002 to maybe 2006. In my own life I’d be in my late twenties going on thirty. It looks like the people in the photos are around the same age too. They’re people who are at least a few years past college and living adult lives.
There’s three distinct settings in these photos: someone’s apartment, another person’s house or (most likely) apartment where a small party or dinner is happening, and at the office. These are the types of casual snapshots that these cameras were made for. And while the early aughts don’t seem that long ago to me, it was definitely a different era of photography, the pre-phone era when most folks would only break out cameras for special occasions or travel.
The roll opens with a shot of the apartment.
Then, the dinner.
Ah, cordless phone, and orange sponge paint. Very early aughts.
More cordless phones.
It’s been a bit since I’ve seen someone wear a hat like that.
Studying a pack of Export “A” Cigarettes. Someone must have recently gone to Canada, or is visiting from there.
There was something about being a male in their twenties during this era that made us give the finger when a camera was pointed at us. I should know, I was definitely not a stranger to this phenomenon. Thankfully I have grown out of it. Also note what appears to be a hacky-sack.
The next two shots are possibly from later at the dinner (or possibly afterward), as more wine and Corona was consumed. Corded phone! These two shots were on the underexposed side, which makes me think the flash was turned off (though there looks like a little bit of red-eye):
We now move to the workplace. Most of the shots are of people at their cubicle. This one below was significant because it unlocked the secret of “Where were these photos taken?”
Now check out what’s on the cubicle wall:
It’s faint, but that flyer reads “Safety at 45 Fremont”. A quick google search shows that 45 Fremont is a skyscraper on 45 Fremont Street in the Financial District of San Francisco. So the work shots are definitely SF while the dinner shots could be either in The City or somewhere else in the Bay Area. Or maybe it was from an out-of-town visit to friends?
The last shot on the roll appears to be in the photographer’s apartment. And I must admit, it’s a pretty random shot for a film camera, showing the photographer’s partner or maybe roommate…vacuuming a sofa? Either before or after a bike ride. Why did they take this shot?
And that ends my window into someone else’s life.
Why did they never develop the roll? Perhaps when they were taking pictures at the office, someone noticed they were using a film camera. Perhaps they poked fun at this, then pulled out their brand-new circa 2003 digital camera. Why are you still spending money to get film developed, brah? The floppy disc on this top-o-the-line Olymolta can hold up to 50 photos at a time, and each photo has a resolution of 3 megapixels! So they march on down to Best Buy after work, buy a new digital camera, and stuff the Minolta Freedom Zoom 160 in the junk drawer. Then they move out of their apartment and the Minolta and that roll end up heading to Goodwill…
I developed this roll of film out of idle curiosity and a sense of duty: If there are photos on the roll, they should be preserved. But I must admit that this has affected me more than I thought. Maybe because it’s a glimpse to a yesterday that didn’t seem so long ago. Adult life tends to blur after you get out of school unless you have some significant milestones like a big move, traumatic event, or children. I don’t know these people, but I could have. It looks like I’d be the right age. Heck, I lived in the Bay Area for a year from 2000-2001, so there’s a chance I could have crossed paths with at least one person in these photos. If anything, these photos made me think back to a certain era of my life, one that seems like yesterday, one that in retrospect feels more care-free, but there was a lot of stress and angst about whether my life was on the right path. Did these folks have similar thoughts and feelings?
And what happened to these folks? I’m sure some relationships soured, while maybe some got married and had kids. Possibly some folks moved out of the Bay Area due to spiraling housing costs, a new job, a desire to return to the old hometown, family responsibilities, or a change of scenery. There’s the possibility that some of these folks may no longer be with us. Perhaps one of the folks depicted here will stumble across this post someday and be reunited with their past. That would be the best case scenario!
Thanks for reading! -Shawn
Know anyone in these photos? Please let us know and also share this blog post with them!
Check out my blog and me elsewhere on the internet here.
Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-free Experience
There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:
Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you'll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial).
Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.