Outreach Spotlight: Lost Rolls America

Lost Rolls America / Generation Human Rights / VII Foundation


The Lost Rolls America project, founded by award-winning photographer, Ron Haviv, opens the magical reencounter with the past to anyone who possesses unprocessed film rolls. Contributors provide one roll of film, which is developed and scanned free of charge by FUJIFILM North America Corporation, and made available back to them. Participants then choose one image and, in a small write-up, explore the meaning of the photo and the significance of re-viewing a piece of their personal, sometimes lost past. Ultimately, these observations offer points of identification, through descriptions of similar memories or associations, for other viewers of this collective experience.


Lost Rolls America ensures the creation of a national archive of images from the public’s lost rolls of images that were never developed at the time of picture takingand were then forgotten—and acts as a digital repository of visual memories living on PhotoShelter’s unique platform. This is a form of collective memory that prioritizes the role of photos in constructing our personal and shared pasts. In revisiting the past, this project also encourages contemplation of how the present and future will be remembered: Which artifacts do we use to record and remember history? How do these artifacts evolve with time? In what ways has the shift from analog film to digital impacted our relation to our own personal memories?

“Lost Rolls” has continued to grow its archive and has received the New York Archive roundtable award for “Innovative use of archives”


Learn more about the project:


Explore the Lost Rolls America Curriculum Partnership:

How Lost Rolls America Started:

The Origins of The Lost Rolls Project

Award-winning photojournalist Ron Haviv looks back at more than twenty-five years of making photographs and shares his latest projects, The Lost Rolls and Biography of a Photo. The Lost Rolls explores a collection of forgotten moments and surprising discoveries leading to provocative questions from his previously undeveloped film. With Biography of a Photo, Haviv returns to countries where some of his most important iconic photographs were made. He explores the "lives of the photos" – the impact they've had on the historical narrative of the countries and the people who live there.

It makes sense that someone who is constantly photographing would have some rolls of film that wind up not being developed. But as Haviv set out on his book tour, he heard from the general public, again and again, that overlooked rolls of film aren’t just the domain of the professional photographer—everyone has that forgotten roll, misplaced in a cabinet or tucked away in the attic.

The lost rolls of one photographer thus led to Lost Rolls America, a representation of all of America’s misplaced, forgotten film. In turn, Lost Rolls America celebrates the once-misplaced, forgotten memories that are now being resurrected with the help of this archive.

Lost Rolls America created an immersive installation of images from the Lost Rolls America Archive at Photoville 2017

PhotoWings’ partnership with LRA and Generation Human Rights explores the heightened role photography plays in how we document and remember our personal and shared pasts through a national high school curriculum, applicable to visual culture studies, civics, and social studies. The curriculum supports visual exhibitions, presentations, and dialogue on the value of old photographs and cross-generational communication. The LRA archive will tour across the United States, and visit schools using the curriculum.

Examples from the Lost Rolls America Archive:

Copyright: Kendra Yoder


1. When was this photo taken? November 2006
2. Where was this photo taken? Philadelphia Marathon
3. Who took this photo? Terry Yoder
4. What are we looking at here? While I was running the Philadelphia Marathon, my husband took this picture of our two sons (on the right) alongside their two cousins (on the left). They were waiting to see me at the 20-mile mark in Manayunk.
5. How does this old photo make you feel? Well, nostalgic, of course. But on a deeper level, it makes me think about memories from a kid's point of view because the image captures how ordinary - okay, boring - the event was for them. You'd never know these kids were at an event with cheering spectators lined up along this part of the marathon route if it weren't for the runner reflected in the store front window. To me, that is the essence of childhood. The stuff that matters to an adult just isn't a big deal for a kid.
6. Is this what you expected to see? No. This surprised me completely. Of course, I wasn't there at that particular moment when the photo was taken. But even so, I doubt my husband even noticed the reflection in the window.
7. What kind of memories does this photo bring back? It brings back all those tender memories of our sons at those busy, but really precious growing years. It also reminds me how much older and out of shape I'm in! Bleh!! ;)
8. How do you think others will respond to this photo? I'm not sure. When I try to look at the photo as if I don't know the kids in it, I still definitely see their personalities - from the extroverted older two, to our more introverted younger son, to our easy-going younger niece who could make a game out of a candy wrapper. More so, I just feel their boredom, that kid-like impatience. It's as if each by their facial expression and/or body language are saying, "This is a total drag. Can we go now?"

Do YOU have an old roll of film lying around—in the back of a drawer or tucked in shoebox? Wonder what’s on it? How long has it been sitting there—5 years? 10 years? 15 years? Longer?

Submit it to us! Use the Lost Rolls America easy downloadable information card. FUJIFILM will develop and scan the film free of charge, and get it back to you. You choose one or two images—any one or two you want for any reason you want! Provide a short description of why you picked those images (LRA will guide you with helpful questions). Then see your images become part of a national archive, with the chance of being part of a future exhibition and a national high school curriculum.

Check out these great recent pieces on Lost Rolls America: