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A Photographer's Journey to #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives [Interview]

Recently, Richmond Virginia-based wedding and portrait photographer Meagan Abell made a stunning find in a thrift-store box of old images. Among the half-century-old family snapshots she uncovered a set of jarringly beautiful transparencies (slide film) and a desire to find the women on them. The #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives campaign has, overnight, caught fire, garnering worldwide attention and press. Ms. Abell was kind enough to take a few minutes out of her schedule of NatGeo and BBC calls to chat with me for an exclusive interview.

 Meagan's story starts with her weekly ritual of dropping off 35mm film at the local Walgreen's — the last one in town that still develops in-house, she notes. On the way home, she makes a spontaneous stop at Heritage Antiques, a thrift store in Midlothian (southwest of Richmond). The store had been on her list of places she'd like to thrift but were typically closed when she had the time to stop by. 

I always dig in the vintage photo boxes [thrift stores] have, just on the off chance that they might have something interesting." 

This time her curiosity paid off, after culling through hundreds of random family photos she unearths them — nine beautiful, moody medium format negatives (she'll later find out they're actually color transparences, slide film). "At three dollars a strip for four strips..." Meagan laughs, it was a no-brainer. "I had to investigate."

After sharing the newly scanned images on Facebook with the hashtag #FindTheGirlsOnTheNegatives Meagan's find has received world-wide attention including appearances on BBC, Mashable, and HuffPo.

Many photographers including some at NatGeo speculate that the images were initially shot for a magazine cover given the way they're composed with the model in the bottom two-thirds leaving room for a title at the top. 

When asked what her favorite "pet theory" for the images was Meagan laughs and says "my friend and I have been thinking of the women in the pictures as lovers." She continues, "we know it's probably not true but it's fun to think that there's more going on here than what we see. At the time these were taken [the couple] wouldn't have been able to be out about it so we think these pictures could have been a way to show each other in a beautiful, emotional, and romantic way."

There's already been progress in the journey to find the girls, LA-based photographer Janelle Pietrzak pointed out the images' striking resemblance to Dockweiler beach in LA. As seen blow it bears a striking resemblance. 

Original Image
Dockweiler Beach
The two images digitally merged by Pietrzak

When asked how long, in light of the worldwide attention given the photos, it would take to identify the photographer or the women in the pictures Meagan laughs "with the way this is going, I'd have to imagine within the month." though my money is on three weeks from now.

If you have any information that may help find the girls you can contact Meagan through her site.

To keep up with Ms. Abell you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

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1 Comment
Anonymous's picture

Love the composition.. what a rad find