Lost Footage and Found History

Lost Footage and Found History

Date: 13/03/2017 14:05

Beginning with a fixation on my grandfather’s ever present film and video cameras during my childhood, the documentation of everyday life onto either 8mm film or video tape was commonplace to me. A student of photography, passed on to him from his own father who operated photography equipment during WWII, his camera was never far from reach, and undoubtedly rarely missed small moments that may have only been deemed worthwhile to him.

Many of these have since been lost. Some through over-viewing, others accidental damage, and the remainder simply misplaced. A few years ago, after months of personally scanning in every single photo or slide of his that I could find, my passion for cinema and the use of traditional film began to intertwine. From a fascination of the film industry’s unending campaign to preserve their film libraries, through learning about digital restoration through online tutorials in order to mend scans of torn photos, or tweak the colours or exposure of a badly aged slide, a new passion had been awoken.

Watching videos of how films such as ‘Jaws’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and even older, had been restored and remastered to look as beautiful as only the original print had before its first projection, it appeared as if there were techniques Hollywood possessed that were out of reach for anything produced outside of the feature film milieu. Creating new digital transfers with accurate colours, exacting detail, and lifelike contrast and exposure. My amateur techniques lacked any semblance of granularity or intent, never spanning beyond the process of taking an unrecognisable blur back from the brink, to an image someone within my family might acknowledge as a relative.

My disappointment at not having the original films of my grandfather, an amateur window into the childhoods of myself, my siblings and even my mother, while present is fortunately not the case for a wealth of homegrown footage, both amateur and professional alike. It’s in seeing the likes of the ‘Super 8 Stories’ series, chronicling at times seemingly unremarkable occurrences like family holidays or a visiting circus, the kind of event I’m sure my grandfather captured as well, that make me think of so much lost footage. While thankfully being able to marvel at the library of videos that, due to the same digital remastering I had years prior assumed was reserved for only the likes of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, have been preserved and shared with anyone wanting to experience them.


by Rory Armstrong