A Treasure Chest of Colorado 4×5 Glass and Film Negatives

Perusing the local flea market, I passed by hundreds of cordless drills and saws, Carhartt jackets, and a plethora of household items as I scoured the rows of offerings for anything photographic. On one table at the back of the third row, I saw a bin filled with hundreds of 4×5 glass and film negatives. Not all but most were in yellow envelopes and marked.

Many photos from Golden and Castle Rock Colorado. Just a stone’s throw away from where I am in Boulder.

“How much?” I asked.

“Buck each.”

“Any idea what these are?”

“No, lots with old cars.”

I looked through them. Saw many that looked like they were winners.

“How about for all of them?”

“All of them? Thirty.”

“I’ll do $20,” pulling out a Jackson.

“That’ll work. You can have the bin, too.”

I handed over the bill.

The bin measured about 24″ x 16″ and it was quite heavy, what with all those glass negatives. No way I was carrying it the 100 yards back to my car.

“Hold onto it. I have to find someone to loan me a hand truck.” Which fortunately worked out almost immediately when a dealer a few booths down let me use one for five minutes. Off I wheeled the treasure chest to the car.

Who does this? Why would anyone want them? They wouldn’t, which is why I got them for $20–the seller was tired of carrying them, I’m sure, and was just glad to see them gone.

I am a professional photographer, you know that, but it doesn’t end there. I surround myself with all aspects of photography. I have a strong interest in the history of photography–where we’ve been and who we were. Old photographs show us that.

I am also a collector and curator of snapshots and vernacular photographs. Why? Just look at these photographs and you’ll see why.

The watermelon-eating family is just priceless.

The third photograph down is a group of people sitting at Red Rocks, a natural rock formation near Denver which is now a quite famous amphitheater having hosted everyone from the Beatles, Neil Young, and Jimi Hendrix all the way up to scores of the performers of today.

This is truly time travel, the same thing we’re doing when we create photographs today. Whatever we photograph, do it our best. Age only makes them more valuable as time marches on, places change and the things that we take for granted are no longer seen.

8 thoughts on “A Treasure Chest of Colorado 4×5 Glass and Film Negatives

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  1. Interesting post. My grandmother used to write the names and ages of the people on the back of photos of them. I knew who some of them were, but others were a head-scratcher. I have some family photos handed down to me, some with names, some not. I’ve created many photos, the vast majority of which are digital. I have no children, and no photographic heirs, if you’ll permit that usage. The digital photos could easily vanish upon my death, or even with an unfortunate series of events. But for anyone who is likely to be cleaning up after me, the people in the prints are anonymous. The photos will probably end up being tossed in the recycling bin. Which isn’t to say that making them was a wasted effort.
    We can look at the people in the watermelon photo and wonder about them. How are they related? What were they like? We will never know.
    In other news, I’m enjoying your blog, I’ve found your youtube channel and have been working through them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the comment. Unless the photos are street photos and not needing to be identifiable, yes, they might get recycled. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you’ve found me.


  2. This is my favorite thing. Found photos are a delight, and these are terrific, even if we don’t know the people in them. I bought a box of early 1900s negatives a few years ago from a stranger and I love all of them. You’re exactly right, it’s like having a time machine. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

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