Photographer Finds Old Camera, But What Was Inside?

Dutch self-taught photographer and a passionate thrift shopper Martijn van Oers found a vintage camera he thought to be unused, but when he took it home he discovered it still had a roll of film which he then decided to develop. This triggered a chain of events that led to an unexpected adventure. Can you guess what kind of pictures the film contained?

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#25. A Passionate Photographer

To Martijn van Oers, a self-thaught Dutch photographer, photography isn’t just a hobby or a profession but his whole life. He considers photography a form of expression and most importantly, a way to tell stories. He was a regular among the thrift stores in his city, Breda, located in the Netherlands.

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One day, Martijn was wandering through a second-hand shop while looking at vintage items, wondering how such unique objects had come to sit in that place when suddenly he spotted a treasure. Martijn had found a hidden gem, a vintage camera.

#24. A Treasure In The Thrift Shop

As Martijn was looking through the shelves, the old camera caught his attention almost immediately. Even though he was used to working with more modern photography equipment, he realized this vintage camera could be a great addition to his collection.

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As a self-described photography fanatic, Martijn studied the history of his profession, but he was unfamiliar with this particular camera. He expected it to be an expensive item, but he was surprised when he purchased it for a reasonable price. Martijn then took the camera home, setting off an incredible chain of events.

#23. Taking It Home

The camera was in fairly perfect condition, especially taking into account how old Martijn thought it was. Bringing it home, Martijn thought that this thrift shop treasure could make a great gift for his wife and that if it turned out to work, he could also enjoy it.

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Having little to no experience with older photography equipment and outdated methods of image development, Martijn was curious to see if he could take some pictures with this camera. But before doing so, he opened up the camera, and couldn’t believe what was inside.

#22. The Journey Begins

What Martijn had in his hands was an original Zeiss Ikon 520/2 folding camera. Not having studied photography formally, he did the responsible thing and reported his findings to the Dutch Broadcast Foundation, to see what information they could give him before testing the camera.

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“I wanted to see if the camera still worked, if everything opened and if the wheels were wtill turning”, Martijn explained.

Meanwhile, Martijn decided to carefully inspect the inner workings of his Zeiss Ikon on his own. To his surprise, he found it still contained an old roll of film.

#21. Holding Onto A Piece Of History

After doing some research, Martijn found that the camera had first come out in 1929 and that it had been produced by the German camera company Zeiss Ikon since 1937. He was delighted to see that his instincts had been correct and that the camera was indeed a vintage treasure.

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The Zeiss Ikon 520/2 used 120 type roll film, a type of film that was less popular by the ’50s, but that can still be found in a few professional photography stores around the world. Holding the film container he had found inside the camera, he wondered what kind of pictures a camera this old could take.

#20. Inspecting The Roll Of Film

Even though the camera came from the late 1920s/30s, Martijn thought that the roll of film could be more recent. But after examining it, he realized it did look old after all. He also noticed the container had the word “EXPOSÉ” written on it.

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Martijn’s kept wondering what “EXPOSÉ” meant, and he was afraid he had just ruined it all. He was planning to try and develop the film, but now he was worried he had accidentally wrecked the film by exposing it, which is what happens with old cameras. He knew there was a chance he would never be able to produce any images from the roll, but he wasn’t willing to give up so fast.

#19. Recovering What Was Left Of The Film

After doing some more research, Martijn came to the conclusion that the film had probably been produced between the 1940s and 1970s. Taking this into account, plus the “EXPOSÉ” label, Martijn realized his chances of developing the film were very low.

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With such a tough procedure ahead, Martijn talked to his experienced photography developer and friend, Johan Holleman. Johan warned Martijn that they may not get any results from the negatives. However, Martijn decided they had to at least try.

#18. The Film Negatives Star To Bear Fruit

After so much research, Martijn was starting to become some sort of expert about the history of the Zeiss Ikon 520/2, but he still didn’t know anything about the history of this particular camera in his possession. He couldn’t even begin to imagine what kind of images the negatives could contain if any.

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Martijn brought the film to his friend so they could carefully unfold the roll together and see the state the negatives were in. They started to examine the undeveloped film, and they got their hopes up as they started to make faint images out of it.

#17. The Start Of The Developing Process

Zeiss Ikon 502/2 cameras are able of taking eight photographs on 120 type film, and as the photographers looked thoroughly at the negatives, they couldn’t believe that it was actually working. Against all odds, they were starting to make out faint outlines of the photos. Contrary to what they thought, the images had been preserved.

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Even though they were aware there was a high chance they would only be able to produce one or two photographs from the negatives, Martijn and Johan agreed to keep going. They were thrilled to find out what kinds of photos the camera had taken and maybe even learn about its history. With this aim in mind, they started to develop the film.

#16. Impatience Can Lead To Failure

On a regular Tuesday afternoon in Johan’s kitchen, they started processing the negatives and attempting to produce prints. Martijn was very excited at such an amazing discovery and had a really hard time holding on to his patience.

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However, according to Martijn, the process of developing film requires knowledge, timing, patience, and accuracy“. Apart from needing a dark room, any minuscule thing like the wrong temperature water or the wrong amount of development fluid can lead to disaster. Martijn’s impatience soon reached its limit, and so he took risks.

#15. Gambling With The Negatives

The success of developing images depends almost entirely on temperature, but Martijn couldn’t wait for the photographs to dry. The process was taking too much time for Martijn and since he couldn’t wait for it to finish on its own time, he convinced Johan to take a big risk.

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Johan was settled on using a hairdryer to finish drying the roll. Of course, they knew it could easily ruin everything if rushed, but nothing could stop him. Martijn later admitted the idea was very dangerous, but he was just thinking of scanning the photos. Can you guess what happened next? Do you think they succeeded?

#14. History Unfolds

Martijn’s impatience led them to success, and truth be told, he was lucky that the hair dryer didn’t affect the quality of the images. As they were processing the film, the images were becoming more clear with every passing second. Before they knew it, history was starting to play right in front of their eyes.

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Four of all the developed photographs revealed detailed images. With no time to lose, Martijn scanned the negatives so they could see what the camera had captured but on a bigger scale. The way he saw it, that way they might find something that would point to when the photos had been taken. As they examined the photographs, they began putting together an amazing story.

#13. The History Of The Camera’s Owner

Looking at the four images, the story of the original vintage camera’s owner started to take form. It appeared to be that the images had captured a couple or a family on a vacation decades ago. Martijn even started to suspect that one of the people from the images was the camera’s owner.

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He calculated the camera had last been used a few decades ago, so he was sure it had been purchased at a very high cost and was, therefore, a prized possession. One of the images showed a man carrying the camera case, which suggested he had bought the camera to capture an important trip, and as Martijn examined each photo, the story became clearer.

#12. A Family From The Past

The next photograph he studied showed a woman posing in front of a stone wall on a street with weird figures on the background. A body of water and a bridge were visible in the distance. Martijn then began to wonder where these photographs had been taken.

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Martijn made sure to take note of every detail he could possibly notice, hoping he would then be able to narrow down the year in which the photos had been taken or where the camera had come from. He analyzed the photos in search of any landmark, knowing that even the smallest detail could turn out to be a clue.

#11. Placing The Images In Time And Space

The next photo showed the same woman from the previous one, but this time she was walking along a promenade. All signs pointed out that the photographs had been taken by a family on a vacation.

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Given the clothing and hairstyles of the people from the photos, Martijn estimated that the images had been taken sometime between the ’40s and the ’60s. But with such little information, he couldn’t narrow it further. He needed more data if he wanted to learn about the camera’s former owners.

#10. Asking For Help

After developing and carefully studying all of the photos, Martijn had come to the end of his investigation. He then decided it was time to seek some help, so he asked himself which other friends of his could give him a hand.

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He uploaded the photos to his Facebook page, and his post quickly picked up countless likes, reactions, and shares. It wasn’t long until one of his friends reached out to tell him he believed to recognize where the photos had been taken. According to him, the place in the photos was Biarritz, a small town in France.

#9. Social Media Impact

Martijn trusted his friend almost immediately since he knew he had vacationed many times in Biarritz. Still, to confirm his theory, his friend looked for the location on Google Streetview, only to find the place had hardly changed ever since the photos had been taken.

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In an interview with the NOS, Martijn expressed his surprise at how fast the pieces had come together.

“We thought it would take a lot of effort to find out the location. But it was done in half an hour”, Martijn said.

Having figured out when and where the pictures had been taken, Martijn set out to find out who the man in the photos was.

#8. The Story Goes Viral

Martijn just couldn’t believe how lucky he had been all along. Staring with the finding of the camera, then learning about the film roll, and finally, being able to develop the images.

“Looking at the images, I feel I stumbled across a small treasure-chest — or time capsule — giving us a tiny glimpse into the past”, Martijn said.

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Even though Martijn knew that the owner probably wasn’t even alive, he hoped that someday he would be able to give the images of the mysterious couple to his family. In the hope of doing so, he made sure to get the information he had already discovered to the press

#7. A Possible Relative Appears

To Martijn’s surprise, someone reached out to him just a few days later, claiming to recognize the couple from the photos. Marrion Jurrjens, the woman who contacted Martijn, had not only recognized the people from the pictures, but she believed they were her relatives.

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Marion then explained that she was almost certain that the camera had belonged to her grandfather since she was pretty sure he was the man from the pictures. She also knew her grandfather had visited Biarritz with his wife nearly half a century ago. Her story made sense so far, but she still had to prove that the people in the pictures were indeed her relatives.

#6. Marion Finds Her Family

Marion was Dutch like Martijn but she had been living in Canada since 2004. Given that the story had gone viral, she had seen the images printed on a Dutch newspaper. She was amazed to recognize the three figures who were in the pictures.

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Marion identified her grandfather, Theo J. Lammers, his wife Elisabeth Lammers-Berveling, and her aunt Thea Lammers. The woman reached out to him and sent her pictures of her family’s photo albums, proving Martijn that the man in the photos was indeed her grandfather.

When I saw the pictures in the paper I felt that it was really special that the pictures were of them”, the woman said.

#5. The Camera’s Original Owner

Marion told Martijn how her grandfather had come to own the camera and it turns out he had bought it for work purposes. He was an architect who used expensive equipment for work, and that’s why he had purchased the camera for his job. However, even though the camera had cost him a fortune, he chose to take it on his vacation to capture moments with his family.

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Marion had other pictures of her relatives in their travels, but she was still wondering how her family’s camera had ended up in a thrift store. Meanwhile, Martijn was certain he had found the lawful owner of his vintage camera.

#4. Martijn And Marrion’s Connection

Knowing how careful her grandfather used to be with his possessions, Marion couldn’t understand how the camera had come out of her family’s possession. Nevertheless, she was excited about the idea of adding the photographs to her collection of family memories.

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“I was so shocked that we had developed a film that’s been untouched inside a camera for decades. And we have been able to find pictures of people on them, and then be able to find the descendants. It’s an indescribable feeling.”, Martijn concluded.

#3. The Camera Goes Back To Its Rightful Owner

Having met the descendant of the camera’s past owner, Martijn kept in touch with her. After giving it some thought, he came to the conclusion that he wanted to hand the negatives and camera over to Marion in person since this whole adventure had meant so much to him.

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To keep a memory of this adventure, Martijn had prints of the four photos made and he had them framed for his home. Now, there was one only thing left to do: to travel to Canada and put an end to the Vintage Camera story.

#2. Making His Way To Canada

To make this trip possible, he created a crowdfunding page hoping that strangers would be moved by the story and help fund the trip. The crowdfunding project proved to be a success, and he earned enough money in no time. Finally, Martijn was able to fly from the Netherlands to Canada to meet with Marion.

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Martijn would finally be able to talk and ask questions about the people in the photos with someone who had actually known them. Starting with the finding of the camera, Martijn couldn’t believe all he had been through and was touched at the thought of handing back such treasured photos to their rightful owners.

#1. The Story Comes To A Close

Martijn still couldn’t believe that he had managed to track down Marion Jurrjens, and he eventually handed her the photographs in person. This story had a happy ending after all. Martijn swore he would never again walk past a vintage camera without checking if it contains film.

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With all the stuff going on, Martijn realized he was forgetting something… he still had to find a gift for his wife, since he had to give away the vintage camera that was supposed to be hers! Oh well, I bet he’ll find another vintage camera out there, won’t he?

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