For nearly 70 years, a partially finished roll of film that documented a couple’s escapades to Switzerland and Italy has been hidden in a brass container, forgotten when changing hands.
The scroll fell into the possession of William Fagan, a Dublin film collector, in 2015 when it arrived in a box with a vintage Leica camera from 1935.
In August, curiosity got the better of him, he said, and Mr Fagan delicately began to develop the film under the direction of Mella Travers, photographer and owner of a Dublin darkroom.
They soaked the film for an hour in diluted developer, shaking it every 15 minutes while Mr. Fagan ate a blueberry muffin to pass the time.
The first things he noticed in the photos were “old people, in old cars, wearing old clothes,” Fagan said in a telephone interview. Intrigued, he took them to his home to scan them for a better view.
“The result was an eye opener,” Fagan wrote in a September blog post. “An unknown family, a clear location and a feeling of sadness that this talented photographer has never seen the results of his work.”
The photos – 22 frames on display out of 36 possible – were taken by a talented photographer, Mr Fagan said, highlighting the photos’ intentional composition. He believes they were captured in 1951 or 1952.
The collection features a woman, often depicted with a dachshund. One photo shows a man who looks about 10 years older than the woman, Mr Fagan said.
“I look at these very personal moments in someone’s life a long time ago and say I shouldn’t have them. I shouldn’t be watching this, ”Mr. Fagan said. “These people were, at that time, together in what seems like a good vacation and they have the little dachshund.
The photos document the couple’s journeys in a convertible BMW around Lake Como, a scenic lake near the Italian-Swiss border, including a stopover in Bellagio in Italy’s Lombardy region. Photos include picturesque mountains and trees along the way. The last photo is a portrait of the woman on a bench in Lenno, Italy, Mr Fagan said.
He said he believed the couple may have been from Austria, Bavaria or German-speaking Switzerland.
Readers jumped into the comments section of the blog to identify familiar locations, and Mr Fagan said he had received hundreds of emails.
In one photo, the woman walks the dog down a narrow cobbled street towards a church, with her back to the camera. The signs on the street are in Italian. One person suggested the photo was taken in Bellagio in North Italy on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and she walked towards Basilica di San Giacomo.
“All of this adds to the mystery,” said Mr. Fagan. “We know exactly where they were. You can get to the exact places. “
The car is pictured in several photos, sometimes parked in front of picturesque backdrops. In one photo, the woman and the dachshund are shown in front of the car on a busy street in Zurich with “post-war American cars around them being used as taxis,” Fagan said.
In another, the car is parked on an unidentified snowy pass with the woman standing right outside the door. In a third photo, the car is parked in front of a building whose signs led Mr Fagan to identify it as La Veduta on the Julier Pass in the Italian part of Switzerland.
A former BMW executive, along with others, identified the car as a BMW 315 model. Others pointed out that its license plate indicates that it was registered in 1948 in Munich in the occupation zone. America in Bavaria after World War II, said Fagan.
Several other photos show a steamboat on Lake Como, which Mr. Fagan identified as having been decommissioned in 1952 and rebuilt in 1956, which dates back to the photos in the early 1950s.
“Almost all of the crowned heads in Europe and almost all of the Hollywood stars have been identified as the couple, including some of the Kennedys,” said Fagan.
One reader pointed out that the woman wore jewelry on the third finger of her right hand, rather than on her left, indicating that they are “a wealthy German couple, I think, rather than an American”.
But mysteries remain, Mr. Fagan said.
“The question is why would someone with a nice camera – and it was a Leica because these tapes only work in Leicas – why he would take so many photos, 21, 22 a great vacation in Switzerland, and would put them back in place. and never touch it again, ”said Fagan. “That’s one of the mysteries of this thing.”
Mr. Fagan is not sure exactly how the scroll ended up with the camera. Efforts to trace the camera back to its original owner have so far failed.
Due to privacy laws, records of buyers’ names are protected by camera dealers, and the same protections apply to car ownership information, Fagan said. He said his best bet for tracking the origin of the film was for someone to recognize the couple.
“The camera and film are physical things – they are personal effects, they are property – but these images actually belong to the people or their families,” Fagan said. “I think the family may know these people and would probably like to have these pictures.”
Mr Fagan said he posted the photos in the hope that someone, possibly a relative, will recognize their subjects.
“They are beautiful, both the places and the people,” said Mr. Fagan. “It’s hard for me not to keep looking for them.”