Man Accidentally Finds 'Stunning' 1940s Images After Buying Canister Online

An English photographer shared his discovery of "stunning" lost images from the 1940s, after purchasing expired film on eBay.

Miles, 29, at Expired Film Club regularly purchases expired film and old cameras online, and documents the modern world through them on his TikTok account @expiredfilmclub. Normally however, the films don't come with snapshots of the past on them.

"I got into buying old film through curiosity about shooting rolls of 'expired' film. All film has an expiry date, after which time the chemicals degrade, and you can get crazy effects and results through using it. I started finding some really interesting rolls online and shooting them, and I just loved the results, so I began posting them on social media. From there I tried to find more unique and interesting films to use," Miles, who sells film and vintage cameras online, told Newsweek.

"I came across this specific one because it came enclosed in a vintage metal Kodak canister from the 1940s that I bought off eBay to hold my film in whilst out shooting, so it was a complete surprise," he said.

"The film has already been developed and was obviously stored in the canister to keep safe, and when I saw the negatives I just had to scan them."

Miles used a Sony A7 digital camera and lightbox to scan the film, and the results offered an amazing optical time-capsule from 80 years ago. After sharing the journey to his TikTok account, the video gained over 400,000 likes and 2 million views, with users dubbing it "stunning" and comparing it to a time capsule in comments.

The first two images feature boats at sea from a distance, capturing an amazing stillness. While other shots candidly captured people on board the boats, including one still of kids running along the deck— recording a true sense of child-like innocence and fun.

From the younger generation to the older— the film also showed an image of elderly women strolling the deck, at a much less exciting pace than their kiddy counterparts. In another shot, a waiter is captured waiting on customers sitting at tables in a white uniform.

In Focus

Image of kids on boat deck

An image of kids running along the deck from Miles' 1940s film discovery.
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Miles told Newsweek that he's unsure exactly where the shots were taken, but that some have suggested it could have been in India, which was a British colony until 1947.

"It was a beautiful experience discovering the images. I had no idea what might be on them, so when I scanned them in and converted them on my computer, it honestly took my breath away," he said.

The images alone are captivating enough, but Miles also managed to colorize them, bringing them even further to life, making them seem less like a relic of the past and more like what they really are—images of loved ones and people who had their own stories and lives.

"I particularly love seeing the people in the images and how simple & beautiful it makes the world seem back then," said Miles. "The images themselves are beautiful too, whoever took them was obviously a keen photographer because they are wonderfully composed, so they just capture people's imagination."

Miles is currently attempting to track down relatives of the people in the photos, and is messaging the person he bought the canister from to find out more about the backstory.

"She tells me she was selling them on behalf of someone who was using them as theater props, so I'll hopefully be able to track down who the people might be in the photos and where they were taken," he said.

When buying old cameras, Miles sometimes finds old rolls of film left inside, and develops them "to see if there's anything interesting on the films that might have been forgotten in time."

With the overwhelming response to the 1940s film, Miles assured Newsweek he will, "definitely be doing more of this and sharing it on my socials."