A local photographer got more than he bargained for when he bought an antique camera unknowingly loaded with vintage photographs of the World War I era.
Anton Orlov – an analog photographer who lives in the UTC area – recently purchased a 1901 Bellini Jumelle photo camera at an antique shop near Los Angeles.
Orlov says he spent $100 on the vintage gem, but what he found inside was practically priceless.
The photographer brought the camera home and spent hours cleaning it, meticulously and carefully going over every little nook with a Q-tip until it was spotless. Then, he decided to look inside.
There, Orlov discovered a series of eight photographs, already developed, taken on the camera more than 100 years ago.
The images, which show WWI airplanes, ruins, soldiers on horses and even a bomb, offer an authentic glimpse into history.
Orlov said they were developed from the camera's glass slides and then stashed inside the vintage camera. Orlov believes whoever put them there may have forgotten about the images or put them there for safekeeping.
“I was pretty flabbergasted,” said Orlov. “I’ve never seen images like that come out of the camera already developed.”
Orlov says his favorite shot in the series is one that captures a group of soldiers proudly holding up what looks like a bomb.
In his eyes, film photography of this kind is truly unique and special because it stands the test of time.
“Other than fire, very few things can destroy it,” he explained. “A hundred years from now, that SD [digital camera] card is going to be pretty useless.”
The photographer feels very lucky to have purchased the vintage camera.
“When I saw it, something pulled me towards it,” he added.
Eventually, Orlov would like to know if the old snapshots hold any value. But, for now, he’s enjoying his role as the keeper of the pictures – and the fact that they’re finally seeing the light of day.
“I'm just happy to put them out there after them being hidden in a camera for 100 years. I'm just happy to see people enjoying them,” he said.
Orlov is fundraising for a film photography education journey. He wants to feature these WWI photos, along with other collections, all over the country. To learn more about his project, visit these websites: photopalacebus.org and indiegogo.com.
This story was originally published on Jan. 11.