“As a filmmaker, I have always loved stories and color slides feel like a frame cut out of a longer narrative,” explains founder of The Anonymous Project, Lee Shulman. Originally from the UK but now based in Paris, Lee’s obsession with photographic slides led him to begin the project in January of this year as a means of collecting and protecting stranger’s Kodachrome-colour slides from flea markets and personal collections. Alongside freelance book-editor Emmanuelle Halkin, Lee has amassed a collection of nearly 400,000 slides since the project’s inception.
The magic of color photography is that when the chemicals on the film are exposed to light, color is created. The problem is that these chemicals degrade over time, eventually leaving no trace of the image. Their mission is to collect, conserve and scan these photographic slides in order to create a database representative of our shared history – a pool of artifacts of daily life from the 1960s through to the digital age. Lee describes each slide as a “little window into our past, a collective memory of our lives and experiences.”
Juggling The Anonymous Project alongside other projects and with thousands of slides that require treatment and scanning, Lee and Emmanuelle enlisted the help of Jesus, an intern from Paraguay. They have also created an international network of collaborators and friends who aid them in sourcing the slides – “it feels like a bigger structure, even though the reality is we are just three people in an office,” says Lee.
Despite having collected nearly 400,000 slides, The Anonymous Project currently stands at an edited selection of around 3000 images. The ones that make it “tend of having some form of human presence or narrative, an emotional involvement,” says Lee. Rarely do landscapes enter into the collection although the duo hasn’t ruled out the idea of diving back into the “non-selects” to find other subjects and themes.
The Anonymous Project provides a means to reflect on our humanity and the shared experiences that unite us. The pair explains on their website how “this is especially important now, at a time when divisions in the world are so great and nationalism is on the rise particularly in the West. Through these images, we will learn that our need for love, laughter, intimacy, and celebration are what binds us all.”