Find The Girls On The Negatives

“Find the Girls On The Negatives” reads a headline that pops off the screen of my interwebs to punch me square in the solar plexus.  It's hard for any article or post to rise above the rest when we consume more information in one day that our ancestors did in a lifetime.  We love and hate social media.  Most days it's thousands of photos of thousands of people spinning across our devices on auto rotation that blend into one endless bowl of life-salad nobody wants to eat.  Some days, however, I come across something that doesn't make me want to throw my laptop to the bottom of a nearby river.  Today is one of those days.

Virginia based photographer, Meagan Abell, struck gold in a thrift store in Richmond this week.  While thumbing through an old pile of photos, she uncovered several old, very interesting medium-format film slides.  Slides or (slide film) is a type of film that captures a positive image - meaning the colors are normal rather than inverted like negatives.  Color photography has been around for ages, but smooth, beautiful film of creative content is not the first thing that comes to mind when we hear "box in a thrift store."  These slides were different.  There was something special about them.  "Now I've seen plenty of vintage prints, but never a set of negatives that was in such beautiful condition," Abell explained in her first Facebook post about the slides.  "I just sent them in to be scanned," she continued. "And I'm flipping out because I'm so excited to see these images."

Slides before the scan.

At first sight the images have a theatrical or cinematic quality.  There seems to be some creative purpose behind this shoot.  And that's just the thing; this is a photo shoot we're looking at!  I mean that in the most modern sense of the term.  A 2015 style environmental portraiture shoot.  Obviously, environmental portraiture has been around for a while, but not prominently, and not like this.  This style is unique.  More specifically, it's unique to modern day photography trends.  There is a certain flavor of environmental portraits trending hard right now.  So hard that it's begun to define, in my opinion, a new genre of photography.  It's an interesting blend of landscapes and people.  It's hot right now, and the amazing timing of these antique film slides to show up on the scene in an age custom tailored to their style is enough to blow the minds of the most ridiculous of photo geeks - myself included.  Even more than the coincidental style, there's clearly a story here.  The quality alone suggests a professional photographer using excellent gear for his or her day.  Who were these people?  What were they doing?  Why is the image quality so ridiculously good?!  What is the story behind these beautiful images?  Some say the location is Los Angeles.  That begs an even deeper question: how in the world did they end up in a thrift store in Virginia?  I mean, these aren't your typical Sunday evening snapshots on a Kodak Brownie in 1955.  Whether we ever come to know the significance of these film images or not, it's clear they were intended for something very specific - something special.  This is the mystery that inspired Abell to begin the search.  She's made it her personal goal to trace these images back to the source and uncover the story behind "the girls on the negatives." 

Meagan is on a mission and needs your help.  If you recognize anyone or anything in these photos, speak up!  The internet is trailing it all with the hast tag  ‪#‎FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives.  If you can help, do it!  If you can’t, just enjoy feasting your eyes on some photographic awesomeness - a quality and beauty only found in the ways of film photography.  I hear "film is not dead" repeated over and over by film photographers and enthusiasts.  With people like Meagan Abell around - people who create, find and appreciate film photography, I say it will never die.

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