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Thursday, 20 January 2011


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Film School project. Nothing more, nothing less.

To perpetuate your conspiracy theory Mike. #1...The two guys in the photo have digital cameras.....Back when I shot film, if I got one or two really good shots per roll of 36, I considered that a successful day. this guy shot a roll of (40?) and aced almost every one. Everyone seems to be of student age, so I agree, the whole thing might be a "blair witch project" kind of thing.....I will admit that if it is a charade, I'm waiting for Act II with bated breath. It is well done.

I'm with you Mike on the BS call. In my case, I spent a number of years working HUMINT in Belfast during the Troubles, and my BS detector was developed then.

Points from the video:

(1) 40 frames developed is claimed. Possible? I've never got more than 37 1/2 frames from a film, but maybe some types are more generous.

(2) In the video, there are exactly 36 distinctly different shots shown, of which three to my mind are shown again in a crop but are somewhat different to the first showing and seem to be of a different exposure. What are the chances of getting 36 - possibly 39 - usable exposures from a nominally 36 frame roll?

(3) The level of detail shown in some of the later crops defies belief from the 4x6 prints shown being scanned early in the video (which are notably muddy grayscale, rather than deep blacks and crisp whites shown in later images). They look more like MF negs enlarged.

(4) The videography is clearly professional. So maybe the finder of the roll is a professional videographer....

(5)...Oh, he is. Todd Bieber. Here's the bio extract from his website:

"Todd writes, directs, edits, shoots, and produces videos - mostly comedy and documentary, or some combination of the two. He is Onion News Networks's Footage Coordinator and is also a freelance Contributing Writer for the network's videos. Todd has freelanced for UCB Comedy Originals, GOOD Magazine, Revel In, and Pennabaker/Hedgus Films to name a few. His work has been featured in a bunch of film festivals including Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, and AFI and some of his viral videos have been featured on the New York Times website, TimeOut NY, Gawker, and E! Online.

He also performs long form improv comedy -- studying extensively at UCB Theatre, The Magnet, and Second City NY."

I note he's got previous for viral videos....

About 10 years ago, I was at Disney's Dolphin Hotel on a business trip. While walking along the little beach, I found an undeveloped roll of 35mm film. I picked it up, and took it home with me. I had the pictures developed and there were a bunch of family type of photos at the resort. BUT in a couple of photos, the male was wearing a business like name tag. I was just barely able to pick out a name and a town in the MD/VA area. A search on the early search tools matched a phone number. A call reached the likely wife, who responded that her doofus husband lost a roll of file at the hotel about a week or two before I arrived for a conference. When she described what were the likely photos, we knew we got a match and promptly sent the photos and negatives.

Similar story, but without the easy file share and social sites ca. 1999 - 2002, the story and photos could not have gone viral like today's story.

Forgot seeing this yesterday- lost all interest when he started commenting on the "aesthetics" of the photographs themselves- true or not, had the overall feeling he was trying to cash in on "The Maier Phenomena." Who was the creator of this lost photographic work (ie-treasure), what was their mission, what did they represent, etc... A little much on a lost tourist roll- at best.

Mike -

Who loses a roll of film? I don't believe any of it. But the videographer is not claimimg to be a journalist, so if he wants to make an entertaining video in an attempt to have it go viral, that's fine with me. I enjoyed it, but thought much of it was pretty corny.


I don't know if it's for real or not but I like the pictures.

Self-promotion of some kind, maybe? Well, at least the photographs look really good.

Both wearing digital cameras by the look of it....

OK, I admit it. Nothing went off in my brain because it asked nothing monetary of me. But you may be right, and yes, I posted it over at the LRTblog and may have unwittingly helped in a small (hey, only 160 readers!) way.

Aw, but still, it *is* a sweet concept, and one I hope is true.

Reaching out to unknown folks is part of the pleasure of the internet, and this video asks us to assist in that. I'm game.

But then I am a sap when it comes to this sort of thing.

I lost my wallet last week and it wasn't the first time. I lost four cell phones in my lifetime but I never lost a roll of film.

It'd be a little wild for two guys with digital cameras (Pentax and Canon) to be out shooting film, too. Not that it can't happen... but I hear a hum, too.

What makes me curious is that the film in the canister contains photos of both guys, individually and together (in which each has his camera). That means there must have been a third party who lost the roll of film. However, given the touristy nature of the photos, I would have expected at least one photo of the whole group, not just photos of those two guys.

Also, the photos on the roll are exceedingly varied. Much more so that one would expect from a tourist agog in New York.

I could believe all of that as the adventures of a emo-dork art student up until the part about the old woman and the 26 bucks.

I call BS but would love to be proved wrong.

The video quality/editing is so easy these days as to not be an issue or clue.

I think maybe someone got caught up in the Vivian Maier story and is seeking a bit of that 15 min of limelight?

Either way I am now curious.

Total BS. But I once found a whole camera with a film in it. An older Canon model. So I had my friend shoot some pictures of my arse and then put it back where I found it. I like to think that the owner remembered where they left it and came back for it. Only to discover something unusual once the film was developed...

I call BS. He'd never find 35mm film in Brooklyn. They only allow medium format and Impossible Project fauxlaroid in that area.

The explanation for 40 prints of 36 different shots may be that the lab reprinted some of them a little differently. I know back when I was shooting film my lab would do that...

Mike wrote: The videographer says he thinks these are the two guys the film belongs to. But why would he assume that when they're both wearing cameras?

Because they're wearing digital cameras while the photos were shot on film. Can't you make the impossible jump to a conclusion here, Mike?

Plus, one of those cameras is a Pentax; everyone knows Pentax is dead, so this has to be a true story. No way around it.

Viral video-porn?

Does that look like Peter Orlovsky on the right or is that just me?

It would appear from this link (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1644084/) that you're right on that call Mike. He's obviously not just some random individual who happened upon a film canister. Good story nonetheless.

@Philip Ball - I am afraid this comment itself is BS, as my adolescent friends and I told this very same (made up) story more than forty years ago when we were in photography class. Except in our case, the camera was said to belong to a nun, to make the story even more corny.

looks like an Olympus Pen F at the end of the video.

Which reminds me... I once ridiculed the hell out of my roommate when she told me how she fell for the ol' wallet on a string act perpetrated by some very bored NYC firemen. How could anyone be so dumb to fall for that ol' comic book trick?

One week later, I'm walking down the street- Hey, look at the wallet on the sidewalk... Can't tell ya how many colors I turned- felt like the entire Fire Dept. was laughing.

OMG! Vivian Maier's last roll!


Now if it where a digital roll of film all the meta data would be imbedded in the emulation. No, oh well..

I don't care if it's "real" or not - it's a good story and nice photos.

But yeah, the guy is filming himself "find" the canister. Either he dramatized it afterwards or it's BS.

Now wait a minute...
We see the guy on skis finding the roll of film. So either this is a recreation or he was accompanied by a videographer.
And the guy does work for The Onion, the fake news network.
Enough said.
By the way, I didn't think the pictures were that good.

And here's the guy's picture.
The beard looks the same, so it could be the same guy. And read the bio which refers to his "various viral videos."

99% sure it is fake for all of the above reasons and more. Seems like a rip-off of (homage to?) NPR's This American Life program. I know it is phony, I just don't get the motivation; how is the filmmaker supposed to capitalize on it?

My favorite recent film/camera lost story is here...
...in where a cruise ship passenger loses their camera overboard and it is later found in the nets of a fisherman.

Way of topic, (but then again, you have a whole category of OT posts), as an avid kayaker, my second favorite 'lost at sea' story if of a boat that drifted 600 miles from the Cayman Islands to Florida.


Being published by the BBC and US Coast Guard, there are no doubts as to the authenticity of these tales; the lost Brooklyn film re-posted about the blogospere, has no such credentials.

BTW, a single analog camera on the photos appears to be an Olympus Pen. It takes 72 pictures on a roll. Surely they are members of some russian half-frame club.

As a follow-up to my earlier post, I guess there is some money to be made in producing viral videos

"Ask and ye shall receive..."

as being russki I do confirm that both these chaps do have an european look and they can happen to be russians. If you happen to have a trip to RU you can find lots of faces of these phenotypes.

As for 'see what you think' - I've got pretty sensitive BS sensors and they did go achtung, but only once: when author was telling about $26 he had been given by a stranger. Both stories ($26 stranger and lost film roll) would look fine if they're separate and not mixed up. But adding one to another is an overkill.


The thing that struck me is why such a clean variety of pictures? Why not 6 of the same scene with different comps? I've never shot film, so I gotta ask - would it be normal to be THAT economical, that you don't wind up with any picture series or half a roll of the same location?

Wow - I think all of this conjecture is pretty pointless. When I first saw the video I didn't believe the story was real, and you know what ? ... I DIDN'T CARE ... in fact, I am actually MORE impressed that someone has created this story rather than it being (like the 35mm film) "A Found Object". Why don't we just assume it is fake and enjoy it for what it is: a short, beautiful, well-told story/fable.

Sorry, just to further elucidate the point I was making above we, as artists, are increasingly in the habit of responding to art in a manner more befitting amateur private detectives ... instead of saying "great photo" or great piece of art, we respond by saying "I'm pretty sure that image was Photoshopped" which is merely pandering to our egos ("See, I wasn't fooled - were you fooled ? Looks like I'm better than you then") and in doing so, something crucial is lost and I think our egos should take a pounding for that ... Damn, I think I'm in the mood now to read "A Million Little Pieces" and laugh at how Veracity has superseded Emotion when it comes to critiquing Art !

The camera in the close up of the last photo shown in the video looks a lot like a Pen F to me. That could account for the count of 40... IF the shooter was also using a 1/2 frame camera! I agree, this appears to be a video project to me.

Did anyone else notice one of them using an Olympus Pen F half frame SLR in the picture at 2:50? Maybe the shooter of the found roll was also using a half frame camera, a 24 exposure roll would give you 48 images from the roll.

David L.,
That's really funny. I don't believe him for a minute, but the second bit at your ABC link was clever and funny.


I don't know about that. What's real and false, sincere and contrived, has always been a big issue, in art as in anything else. Google "Thomas Chatterton" for starters....


"Film School project. Nothing more, nothing less."

He's correct.

He said that "someone must have lost" the roll of film. Maybe he dropped it himself, or had a friend drop it. How can a (professional?) videographer suspect that one of those men was the photographer when they both have cameras slung around their necks? I think he's trying to appear less knowledgeable than he actually is. Perhaps he's branching out into photography. Anyway, here's more on the story: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwx4c0AnxjA&feature=related

Hi Mike - I'm not saying that this has not been a "big issue" for a while and for other people (I even quoted James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces" in my 2nd post). What I am saying however is that, in my opinion, such "issues" are largely overblown when it comes to art: where Chatterton's poems good, even if they were "inauthentic" or misrepresented ... Is "Blair Witch Project" a good movie (because I suspect it wasn't real despite protestations and marketing to the contrary) ?

David Bostedo hits it on the head. Why only one shot of each subject. When I shoot 35mm I con't shoot just one photo of a scene even if someone had a gun to my head.

When I had to use a 4x5 many years ago I was ALWAYS took two pictures!

I want to see the contact sheet of the entire roll of film. That may clear up some of the mystery.

No this whole thing is a joke and not a very good one.

PS: It's easy to shoot 40 exposures just use self-loaders. I used to get that many all the time. Mainly because I never stopped loading soon enough.

It wouldn't surprise me if this was all a setup. But at the same time it seems internet commentators have forgotten that 1) you are allowed to carry both digital and film cameras at the same time 2) you are allowed to take a picture on a digital camera to check your exposure and then commit them to film. 3) cameras have self timers and tripods which allow cameras to take pictures of the photographers 4)a 36 roll of film actually has 39-40 exposures depending camera being used,

How on earth can anyone care enough about this to form an opinion, let alone post?

For starters, I'm getting 38 frames on my Canon F-1N without even trying really hard. That's on pre-packaged Tri-X, not self-loaded. If self-loading, 40 would be one good number, as it still fits into the archival sheets and dev spools.

Next, many young photo-nerds will carry around more than one camera. One or two digitals, one or two film cameras. If you're on a budget, you'll take lots of pictures with digital and few on your film camera.

The idea that "hey I get 1 keeper per roll, this can't be true" is pretty lame. There *are* better photographers than you out there (same holds true for me, no mistakes).

And last: To me it was obvious that there must be three people in the group. The owner of the film would most likely be the third person.

Assuming this is true, that is. I think the believe in that is hindered by this "professional viral video guy" who decided that applying his pro know how to the search would be the best plan of action. Let's just wait and see. The guy swore to his heart that it's the truth, so he'll get some flames if he lied.

"Is "Blair Witch Project" a good movie (because I suspect it wasn't real despite protestations and marketing to the contrary) ?"
No need to suspect. The Blair Witch Project is not "real", and was only marketed that way. No one ever claimed that it was real outside of the marketing hype (and the first part of the movie).

I have little doubt that this is a self-promotional piece for the filmmaking author. There could even be a grain of truth buried inside: maybe he really did find a role of film once, and that gave him the idea for a more dramatic fictionalization for his demo reel, with mysterious foreigners and unexpectedly great photos, and a gift from a generous stranger.

Some have questioned what the benefit would be of faking something like this. But if you've ever worked in a project-to-project field like the filmmaker, where your career is partially based on how well you line up your next job, the advantage of this kind of profile-raising portfolio piece is obvious. I call Bubble Boy.

The only thing that seems weird to me is the 40 pictures, I usually got 37 or 38 per roll, but not 40. I think I can explain why both of them have digital cameras; when I traveled, I usually had a digital SLR and a medium format film camera, I would take hundreds of digital pictures and when I found a nice composition, I would take out the big gun, and take a single frame of what I thought was a good picture, sometimes 2, changing the angle or something. One time I spent half a morning taking pictures that way in DC, and when my Hasselblad reached frame 14 I knew something was wrong. Yup, I didn't load the magazine properly. Anyway, film being more expensive to develop, I payed more attention to what I was doing, and got a lot more keepers by percentage than my digital tally.

Over here in Oz we refer to such things as a truck full of elderly shoe repair men — A Load Of Old Cobblers.

I am right there with you after a life in and around the media on the BS-o-meter.

I dunno. I thought the photographs themselves were pretty doggone average.

OK, it's no issue getting 40 exposures on a roll if you bulk load yourself. I've done it routinely when I shot film. But this is still a scam:

• Given the video maker's video production credits, the statement that he doesn't know anything about judging photographic images is disingenuous at best.

• Everyone else noticed that there must have been a third person involved to shoot at least some of the photos of the two people who the video maker claims "must" be the photographers. This never occurred to him? Nonsense.

• $26.00 from an old woman? What did he need it for? Shooting and editing digital video and uploading it to YouTube? There's still $26.00 left over after that.

This stinks from beginning to end.

"$26.00 from an old woman? What did he need it for? Shooting and editing digital video and uploading it to YouTube? There's still $26.00 left over after that."

In the ABC interview he says he tried to take the film to CVS but CVS claimed that it was a professional film. So whatever processing he did was done at a specialty processing which costs quite a bit more than a few bucks and add in shipping the prints and negatives to be sent back to the original owners in Europe, there you have the 26 bucks.

APS film holds 40 exposures. Maybe the guy was using a 40 exposure roll of APS film that's only available in Eastern Europe which was why it had to be specialty processed.

>> The above two comments came in one right after the other. Hugh, meet your neighbor Joe. Joe, Hugh. Maybe you could meet for lunch and iron out the bit about the potential for Europeans in your park....

Thanks, but I've known Hugh for years. Park Slope is just a small town dropped into the middle of Brooklyn.

"$26.00 from an old woman? What did he need it for?"
Why, developing the film of course.

I enjoyed looking at your work, too. I sent the link along to my brother, who worked selling Christmas trees when he was a teenager and liked it so much that he kept doing it for years after he stopped needing the money. He said he would have bought one of your prints if the one he wanted wasn't sold out.


Maybe it's just me being naïve, but I think the comments here are a bit harsh. Perhaps it's a set-up, but why? Why not take someone at his word once in awhile? Are we all so burned out by the various Internet boys-who-cried-wolf that we can't find it in ourselves to judge someone innocent until proven otherwise? In any case, all the supposedly damning evidence so far seems pretty insubstantial.

"How on earth can anyone care enough about this to form an opinion, let alone post?

Posted by: David Paterson | Friday, 21 January 2011 at 05:52 AM"

Dunno, Dave. Please do tell how can anyone care enough to post? ;)

But I find that video entertaining and interesting, true or not.

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