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Lost Roll Of Film Returns To Mystery Photographer

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Lost Roll Of Film Returns To Mystery Photographer

Photography

Lost Roll Of Film Returns To Mystery Photographer

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GUY RAZ, host:

Here's another story we came across this past week. Remember that huge blizzard that hit New York last December? Well, the next day, a guy called Todd Bieber decided to strap on a pair of old skis and trek across Prospect Park in Brooklyn, where he lives. And here's what happened.

Mr. TODD BIEBER: While I was out there skiing around, I stopped at one point, just to catch my breath, and I looked down, and I saw a canister of film.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: The first thing that came to his mind was, who uses film anymore? Todd thought about tossing the roll back into the snow, but then he remembered something a friend once told him.

Mr. BIEBER: Fun stories happen when you make choices you wouldn't normally make. And so, normally, when I find a piece of garbage on the ground, I just leave it sit, or I pass by it, or I throw it away or something like that. I was like, you know, there's probably something in here.

RAZ: So Todd shoved the film into his pocket, and he took it to a developer. And when he went back to pick the photos up a few days later...

Mr. BIEBER: They gave me the envelope, and I opened it up, and it was just these amazing pictures of the blizzard.

RAZ: It was like a photo tour of the city.

Mr. BIEBER: Coney Island, Central Park, they went to the Brooklyn Bridge. The film was black and white. All of the modern cars and modern technology was just buried, covered in snow. You're just left with, like, old school New York.

RAZ: In a few of the photos, there were these two men, handsome, fashionably dressed, maybe European.

Mr. BIEBER: And then they ended up, you could see the last few photos were taken just a few steps from where I found the film. And it was like, whoa, this is awesome. I've got to do something cool with this.

RAZ: Now, wherever these guys were from, Todd wanted to find them. So he made a video about his find, and he posted it to YouTube. And he asked the question: Do you know any of these people?

Mr. BIEBER: I put it up there not expecting much. When I got 1,000 views, I was like, okay, cool, 1,000 views. Then it got 10,000 views. And the next thing I know, within like, four days, I had a million views, and it was everywhere.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: Hundreds of people sent him emails, people around the world offering him clues and tips.

Mr. BIEBER: My favorite was: Based on the hairstyle, they said that they were from Turkey.

RAZ: But no solid leads came through. And after a few months, Todd was about to give up on the whole thing. But then, he got an email from a woman named Camille, and she wrote:

Mr. BIEBER: That's my family. Those are my pictures.

RAZ: And those mysterious men, they were Camille's brothers. And as proof, she sent Todd other photos she'd taken that day on a different camera.

Mr. BIEBER: I saw her family. I saw the snow. And I was like, this is real.

RAZ: After a few emails back and forth, Camille and Todd talked on the phone, and she suggested that he mail her the photos. But Todd didn't want it to end that way.

Mr. BIEBER: And within a few hours of getting that phone call, my girlfriend and I booked a trip to Paris.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: Todd tapped into his new network of friends, people all over Europe, who saw the video and offered to buy him a beer or a crash pad if he ever passed through. So he loaded his backpack and left Brooklyn.

Mr. BIEBER: I started in Belgium, Germany, down to Switzerland, down to Italy.

RAZ: Paris was his last stop, and that's where he met Camille in a cafe. Where else?

Ms.CAMILLE ROCHE: (Unintelligible).

RAZ: Now, if all of this sounds romantic, it is, definitely. But the reality of it was that for Todd, it was strangely awkward.

Mr. BIEBER: Unlike all the other people that I met who had, like, reached out to me and greeted me with open arms, she didn't choose to be part of this. She just woke up one morning, and all of a sudden, her family photos were this viral video.

RAZ: Todd videotaped the meeting, and over a few days, he got to know Camille. He found out she was a student, studying urban planning.

Mr. BIEBER: She doesn't consider herself a photographer.

RAZ: And they both agreed the whole thing was like something out of a movie.

Ms. ROCHE: Have you seen "Amelie?"

RAZ: That's Camille asking Todd if he'd seen the film "Amelie."

Mr. BIEBER: After that French movie, "Amelie," where the girl finds the pictures and the things...

RAZ: Yeah.

Mr. BIEBER: ...and then leaves them or - and then gives them back to the owner.

RAZ: Of course in the movie, Amelie falls in love with the film's owner. Todd, you'll remember, has a girlfriend.

Mr. BIEBER: I'm very happy in that relationship.

RAZ: But the movie did inspire a different ending to Todd's story. During his trip, he'd been taking his own photos. He took a few final shots with Camille and her brother, and then they put the film canister outside the Caf´┐Ż des Deux Moulins in Montmartre, the same restaurant where Amelie works in the film. And in the canister, they left a note.

Mr. BIEBER: So like, I'll put...

It said...

Ms. ROCHE: It happened once...

Mr. BIEBER: It happened once, it can happen again. If you find me, I'll buy you coffee, and we'll become friends. It's the beginning of an adventure. Now, I'm just kind of waiting to hear back to see if anybody found my film.

RAZ: That's Todd Bieber. I spoke with him in New York. You can see the photos that inspired his adventure at our website, npr.org.

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