Initially, Zeleny attempted to locate the people in the found images or at least the people who photographed them. He only found a few. In 2015, when he had amassed more than 6,000 images, he decided to share them with the world by creating an online archive called “Found Polaroids.” He invited creatives, writers and really anyone to participate in crafting fictional stories behind the photographs. “The importance of stories is not always in their actual truth, but rather in the truth that we can find reflected in our own lives. A really great story is simply one that holds a mirror up to our present reality. Perhaps we should be thinking of the Polaroids as ‘a box of unwritten letters,’” Zeleny said.
The “Found Polaroid” website allows anyone to look through the Polaroids and choose one to write a story about. You can also read the stories already written — some have several. Many of the photographs with stories have been curated into a book called “Found Polaroids.”
“The images are in equal parts heartbreaking and mesmerizing. Like slowing down to gape at a car accident, our curiosity and fetish to look outweighs our propriety. In order for found images to take meaning, we must look. Collecting is a journey, not a destination. Rewriting the experiences of these individuals is a collective endeavor done with respect for the universal human desire not to be forgotten. We will not forget you, ” Zeleny said.
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