For almost 70 years, a partially finished roll of film documenting the escapades of a couple in Switzerland and Italy was hidden in a brass container that was forgotten when the owner changed hands.
The role fell into the possession of William Fagan, a Dublin film collector, in 2015 when it arrived in a box with a vintage Leica camera in 1935.
In August, curiosity got the best out of him, he said, and Mr Fagan cautiously began developing the film under the guidance of Mella Travers, a photographer and owner of a Dublin darkroom.
They soaked the film in a dilute developer for an hour, stirring 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, in old clothes,” said Mr Fagan in a telephone interview. Fascinated, he took it home to digitize it for a better view.
“The result was a revelation,” Fagan wrote in a blog post in September. “An unknown family, a clear place and a sense of sadness that this talented photographer has never seen the results of his work.”
The photos – 22 exposed images of the possible 36 – were taken by a gifted photographer, said Mr Fagan, noting the deliberate composition of the photos. He believes they were recorded in 1951 or 1952.
The collection prominently features a woman who is often shown with a dachshund. A photo shows a man who appears about 10 years older than the woman, Mr. Fagan said.
“I look at these very personal moments in someone’s life long ago and say I shouldn’t have these. I shouldn’t be looking at these, ”said Mr. Fagan. “At that moment, these people were together on what seemed to be a wonderful vacation and they have the little dachshund.”
The photos document the couple’s travels in a BMW convertible around Lake Como, a picturesque lake near the border between Italy and Switzerland, including a stopover in Bellagio in the Italian region of Lombardy. The pictures show picturesque mountains and trees on the way. The last photo is a portrait of the woman on a bench in Lenno, Italy, said Mr Fagan.
He believes the couple may be from Austria, Bavaria or German-speaking Switzerland.
Readers skipped to the blog post’s comments section to identify familiar locations and Mr Fagan said he had received hundreds of emails.
Recognition…Collection by William Fagan
One photo shows the woman leading the dog along a narrow cobblestone street to a church, her back to the camera. The signs on the street are in Italian. One person suggested that the photo was taken in Bellagio Northern Italy on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and that it was going towards the Basilica di San Giacomo.
“This all adds to the puzzle,” said Mr. Fagan. “We know exactly where they were. You could go to the exact spot. “
The car can be seen in several photos, sometimes parked in front of picturesque scenery. One picture shows the woman and the dachshund in front of the car on a busy Zurich street, with “American post-war cars being used as taxis around them,” said Fagan.
In another case, the car is on an unknown snow-covered mountain pass and the woman is right outside the door. In a third photo, the car is in front of a building whose signs prompted Mr. Fagan to identify it as La Veduta on the Julier Pass in Italian-speaking Switzerland.
A former manager of BMW and others identified the car as a BMW 315 model. Others pointed out that the license plate indicates that it was registered in Munich in 1948, in the American occupation zone in Bavaria after World War II, Fagan said.
Several other photos show a steamer on Lake Como that Mr Fagan identified as a steamer that was decommissioned in 1952 and reconstructed in 1956. The photos are from the early 1950s.
“Almost every crowned head in Europe and almost every Hollywood star has been identified as a couple, including a few Kennedys,” said Fagan.
One reader pointed out that the woman wore jewelry on her third finger rather than the left finger on her right hand, indicating that they are “more of a wealthy German couple than Americans.”
But secrets still remain, said Mr. Fagan.
“The question is, why someone with a nice camera – and it was a Leica, because these cassettes only work in Leicas – why they take so many pictures, 21, 22 from a great vacation in Switzerland, and then get back to business would roll and never touch again, ”said Mr. Fagan. “That’s one of the secrets of this thing.”
Mr. Fagan is not entirely sure how the part with the camera ended. Efforts to trace the camera back to its original owner have so far been unsuccessful.
Due to privacy laws, camera dealer’s records of buyers names are protected, and the same protection applies to vehicle ownership information, Fagan said. He said his best bet to trace the origin of the film would be for someone to recognize the couple.
“The camera and the roll of film are physical things – they are belongings, they are possessions – but those images actually belong to people or their families,” said Fagan. “I think the family may know these people and probably want these pictures.”
Mr Fagan said he posted the photos in the hope that someone, perhaps a relative, would discover their subjects.
“They are breathtaking, both the places and the people,” said Mr. Fagan. “I find it difficult not to look further for them.”