“It would be really great if we could reunite the images with the family after all these years,” Joe Avery told The Local.
Joe and and his wife Angela have been coming to a cabin near Nässjö in south central Sweden every autumn for the last decade to visit Angela’s cousins, the offspring of her English aunt who married a Swede.
“We absolutely love Sweden. It’s a beautiful country with really nice people,” Joe Avery told The Local.
Over the years, visits to flea markets, sales, and auctions have become a standard part of the Avery’s annual pilgrimages to Sweden.
“We sort of a have a fetish for old Swedish things,” said Avery.
While the Averys have been collecting antique Swedish items for some time, their August 2011 visit to an auction in Eksjö would prove to yield an unexpected surprise.
At the Eksjö auction house, which specialises in estate sale auctions, Joe spied a box of assorted items that caught his eye.
“I saw a box filled with a bunch of little nicknacks,” he said.
He was specifically drawn to an old desktop “savings clock” that stops working if a coin isn’t deposited. Among the other items in the box was a vintage Agfa Isolette camera.
Joe ended up placing the winning bid for the box, which set him back “about four or five pounds”.
Pleased with his purchase, he and his wife finished their visit and headed back home where they took stock of their purchases.
It was only upon examining the camera at home in England that Joe discovered it still contained a roll of film.
“Luckily, I didn’t open it until I had wound the film back in the camera,” he said.
“Curiosity then led me to wonder if there might be any images on the film.”
After a bit of research, Joe was able to find a photo lab that had the capacity to develop the outdated film. And while he was doubtful that any images could be salvaged, he went ahead and dropped off the roll and hoped for the best.
A few days later, Joe had a voicemail from the photo lab.
“He left me a message saying ‘your pictures are ready’. I couldn’t believe it,” said Joe.
He returned to the lab to discover that the film had produced 12 grainy, black and white images. Some of the pictures are of young children, while others depict a bridge. A snow-covered house is also featured in several of the images.
“I’ve really wondered about what the children in the pictures might be doing now,” said Joe.
According to the operator of the photo lab, the film found in the camera was manufactured between 1947 and 1952, leading him to theorise that the images could very well be more than 50 years old.
“It was absolutely amazing,” he said.
“It’s like we’ve stumbled across a moment in these people’s lives that has been hidden in this camera for perhaps 50 years and they may not even know it.”
While a spokesperson from the Eksjö Auction House, told The Local it would be “almost impossible” to find the camera’s original owner, Joe and his wife are nevertheless hoping making the images public may elicit more clues about the pictures.
In addition, Joe and Angela hope members of the family depicted in the images will get in touch so they have a chance to reclaim a slice of their past.
“The owners are more than welcome to the images – and the camera. It’s still in great condition,” Joe told The Local.