In May 2018 I discovered a box of negatives for sale online. The listing had very limited details but mentioned that there were approximately 80 film negatives of men, women and photographs of what appeared to be their vacation to an unknown city in the 1950s. The listing went on to say that there were mostly negatives of a “bygone” era, which was intriguing to me and encouraged me to purchase them.
The negatives arrived in an aged yellowish envelope with no notations or markings indicating their owner or where they were from. The seller had no information other that they were purchased at an estate sale or similar sale. As I carefully examined the negatives on a light table I realized that I was looking at someone’s vacation photographs. The negatives themselves were in fair condition with very limited scratches and creases on the surface. As I peered around the images I noticed that the buildings and places had a foreign language written on the business and street signs, which I later discovered to be Portuguese.
The more I looked at the images I wanted to try and figure out where exactly these photographs had been taken. There were two photographs in particular that had a lot of street and business signs that I figured would lead me to an approximate location. I typed in some of the names seen in the images but they took me nowhere. I looked at the photographs more and noticed in one there is, what appears to be, a bridge traveling across the roof from one building to the other. It’s such an odd looking bridge and I had never seen anything like it. Having no idea what it was exactly I search on Google for a “pedestrian bridge in Portugal” and to my surprise I found it’s called the Santa Justa Lift located in Lisbon, Portugal. I even found the exact location of where the photograph was taken, R. do Carmo 98, 1200-093 Lisbon, Portugal. Click HERE to see a Google map of the location. In Google street view I saw that many of the buildings have gone unchanged, although these photographs were taken probably 70 years ago, the architecture is still there.
Soon after discovering the location, I made several prints in my darkroom. Seeing these photographs in person and to be able to view them and notice all the little details of the city, the buildings and the people is a strange feeling. They were taken by someone who is most likely dead now and at one point in their lives these photographs were a memory that they relived every time they looked at them. Every photograph has a story, and even though I have no story to tell about the people or the places, I now have my own story to tell. Now they’ve ended up in my hands where I was able to print them in the darkroom and they were able to once again be relived with a new story.