Interview by Seth Casana
Issue 30 • August 2015 • Richmond

An unlikely photo discovery sends shockwaves across the photography world, searching for answers to the mysterious beauty.

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When Meagan Abell purchased a few old unlabeled photographs from Heritage Antiques for the grand total of $12, she had no idea they were going to take over her life. In an attempt to learn more, she took them to Richmond Camera, had them scanned, and on Wednesday, July 29 at 7:54 pm, posted the images on her website with the hashtag #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives. It turns out that quite a few other people were struck by the unnerving beauty she had uncovered and wanted to help in her quest, so much so that by Friday evening, she had been featured on BuzzFeed, interviewed by the BBC, and corresponded with news outlets in Norway, Brazil, Germany, Paris, and New Zealand. “I had been sitting in front of a computer for like eight hours that first night answering emails,” she recalled.

The fifteen images did contain some clues that could be deciphered by the collective wisdom of the internet. First, they weren’t actually negatives, but positive slide transparencies. By comparing the distant hills to contemporary photos, the location depicted is thought to be Playa Del Ray, California. While there’s still no progress on the identity of the photographer or models, the photos were probably taken in the Fifties (give or take a decade). More theories are pouring in by the minute and it’s all that Meagan can do just to keep up with them.

Meagan Abell

As a photographer herself, Meagan keeps a small collection of found vintage photos. “These are the highest quality of old photos I’ve ever found,” she reports. I asked her what she would do if it were ever possible to contact the original photographer. “First,” she admitted, “I would probably cry. Then, I would ask why the models are walking into the water? What was the purpose? Finally, I would want to know what camera and which film?” Many have come forward claiming that their dear old mother is the model, but so far, none have given any proof as such. In the meantime, Meagan is happy the world shares her excitement, saying, “It’s completely out my hands at this point.” For those who want more, stay tuned, because she also reports that another set of photos was discovered in the same shop. “I picked up more yesterday, they haven’t been released yet (but I will because they’re awesome).”

To stay up-to-date on the latest discoveries (and check out Meagan’s own photography), visit meaganabellphotography.com.

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