Century-old mystery photos found in a box for £4 at an Essex car boot sale

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Century-old mystery photos found in a box for £4 at an Essex car boot sale

Greg Pack digitally restored the 100-year-old photos using his phone and Photoshop.


(Greg Pack)
(Greg Pack)

A mysterious box containing a collection of 100-year-old family photos has gone viral on Twitter.

Greg Pack, a retired graphics artist, bought an old box at Marks Tey car boot sale in Chelmsford, Essex, on August 15 for just £4, and in it found a wealth of old photos.

Greg’s son Scott posted the tale of the box and its contents on Twitter, saying: “Boxes are made to be opened, so he [Greg] did what most of us would do and peeked inside.”

The battered box contained old glass photographic plates, in “various states of disrepair” – the plates were negatives, meaning faces were hard to discern.

Greg told the Press Association: “The seller wanted £5 for them, but you always have to pay less than is being asked, so I got them for £4, silly money.”

Greg took photos of the negatives with his phone, then reversed the colours in Photoshop so that the original image could be seen.

When the colours were reversed, what looks like several family images were found, including a photo of a man in a soldier’s uniform.

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(Greg Pack) The photographic negative and the Photoshopped result

Greg said: “I used to work in graphic reproduction so I knew what to do with them, as they are negatives I held each one up to the sky and took a photo with my iPhone. I then sent them to my laptop and in Photoshop I turned then to a positive image.

“When I saw the images I was amazed at the quality and the fact that they were over 100 years old is quite moving, to think that I was the first person to see them for around 100 years, awesome.”

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(Greg Pack) Turning a negative into a positive

Scott posted the photos to Twitter, where several users have been trying to guess the identities of the people spotted.

There have been guesses that the soldier’s uniform, pictured below, is from early in the 20th century.

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(Greg Pack) A girl and a soldier

As well as the photographic negatives, a list with location names – nearly all around Normandy in France – was found pasted into the lid of the box.

These do not seem to correspond to the actual plates, however, and Greg and Scott believe they might refer to images not included in the box.

The thread now has over 28,000 retweets, and plenty of Twitter users have been using their detective skills to try to figure out the location and subjects of the photos.

Users have guessed that the soldier’s uniform isn’t from any earlier than 1903, but that some of the dress styles seem later.

Greg and Scott have posted updates on the photos, stating that they believe they were taken in England of an English family.

Greg said: “I am hoping that the mass publication of them will lead to some identification of the army uniform. Already someone has said that it dates from around 1901 to 1909.”

Press Association

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