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Connecting Abandoned Photos from Paris

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December 29th, 2015

Andrew Goddard and James Bennett share two loves.

Both men love everything French and both men love photographs of people – especially images that were destroyed and left behind in Paris.

About two decades ago, Goddard and Bennett collected hundreds of abandoned snapshots from Paris photo booths. Now they’re on a mission to return the photographs to their rightful owners and Director/Cinematographer Joel Addams is documenting it all. Love Don’t Leave Me releases in 2017. I recently interviewed Joel about the project that he describes as “very artsy and kinda brings humanity together.”

Addams-110521-PhotoBooth-324-1500Audrey: in a few sentences please describe your project.

Joel: Andrew Goddard and James Bennett collected hundreds of abandoned Paris Photo Booth images while serving Mormon missions in the mid-1990s. They collected them for a variety of reasons: interest in people, for the artistic value, and even for solace during difficult times on their missions. Now, twenty years later, they have decided that the time is right to try to find these people: out of interest, out of wanting to make human connections, and realizing that they have an artistic collection that is worth preservation.

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Audrey: why did you decide to take on this particular project?

Joel: I have a particular love for photography, especially the film-based prints and the qualities of the images that make them different than digital images. Beyond that, they appeared to me as a major collection of art, of ‘found art’ that was important to preserve. Foremost, it seemed right to try to return them to their owners, who don’t even know they are being looked for. This search for human connection and making patterns out of chaos, seemed to be a beautiful challenge. In the end, we hope to interest a museum to preserve the remaining photographs that are not collected, as they are a beautiful treasure for Paris.

Addams-110521-PhotoBooth-119-1500Audrey: is this a solo project or are you working with others?

Joel: I’m just directing the pathways that James and Andrew want to take to try to find the owners of these photographs. I advise on methods, but we all have to agree on the final ways and means to try these things. We are really working with YOU, the people of the world, the people interested in helping us. The “Small World Theory” suggests that there are few steps in getting to certain people, so really we are trying to involve anyone we can. It’s a social experiment too, and the intrinsic value of random people cannot be underestimated. It’s YOU who really make the process work!

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Audrey: will you tell me a little more about Andrew and James?

Joel: Andrew and James are interesting people, both happy with life and with a fierce love of the French people and French culture. Andrew is from Alabama originally, a funny and personable guy. He loves the faces of the portraits and talks of them as if they are old friends. He loves to come up with stories about who they might be. James teaches high school French and is originally from Arizona. He is very professorial in nature and contemplates life in multiple layers. He also talks about the collected portraits with warmness, as if he has known them for years. The interest in returning the photographs and preserving them in a museum seems paramount to him. I find him to be very concerned about the longevity of the images. I think that they never truly considered that they could return them before the advent of social media in the last ten years. When I realized they had this extensive collection, I started photographing them in 2011. When I started making documentaries, I approached them with the idea, and they felt that it was paramount to try to return them to the individuals and then to donate the rest to a museum.

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Audrey: which photo booths in Paris did they collect from?

Joel: they seem to have found them all over Paris, but especially in the La Defense area.

Addams-110521-PhotoBooth-329-1500Audrey: what do you hope to accomplish with the release of your documentary?

Joel: documentaries should themselves be an intrinsic contribution to a larger collection of art and understanding. We hope our documentary shows the beauty of a process of finding people and connecting humans, where no other connection seems to exist. There is also a beauty in following individuals through time, to see their stories unfold, and learn about their developments. We are so interested in hearing their stories. Imagine if some of the couples or friends are still together.

Addams-110521-PhotoBooth-115-1500Audrey: when should we expect Love Don’t Leave Me to be released?

Joel: we hope to release it in film festivals during the 2017 season and then general release at that time. We plan to finish filming during the middle of 2016.

Addams-110521-PhotoBooth-318-1500Audrey: how can we help?

Joel: we would love help! Our Kickstarter Campaign will be available until mid January (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joeladdams/love-dont-leave-me-a-documentary)

It’s important to note that we need reposts and retweets and shares just as much as anything!

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Website: (www.taofeaturefilms.com)

* Photo Credits: taofeaturefilms.com

**Joel Addams has a background in documentary and commercial photography. He has freelanced various projects in Egypt, Haiti, and Peru. Joel completed his first feature-length project, Before I Burn, in 2013. Before I Burn documents how the Nepali society accepted corneal donation from Hindu and Buddhist temple cremation sites. Joel followed both the emotional struggles of the families of the donors as well as the recipients who regained their sight.

***Please share this post to get the word out about Love Don’t Leave Me and to help Andrew and James find the people in the Paris photographs!

Merci!

Audrey

Watch the Love Don’t Leave Me trailer…

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