If a picture is worth a thousand words, then one Calgary photographer is in the process of developing an epic novel.

But it's not Azriel Knight's own work that's creating internet buzz but rather pictures that other photographers took decades ago using old cameras and long-forgotten film.

Fourth of July parade

'The coolest dog I’ve ever seen!' is the caption on this photo from a South Portland Fourth of July parade. (mysteriousdev.com)

Knight searches garage sales, thrift shops and the internet for old rolls of films. Sometimes, he finds exposed but undeveloped film still inside vintage cameras.

"Most of what I deal with is still with the canister, so it's been shot but not even the photographer has seen the images," he said.

He then develops the images and tries to figure out to whom they once belonged. Knight posts many of the pictures to his Mysterious Developments website.

The photographer has dedicated the last three years to the project.

Old-fashioned darkroom development

"I'll go a few weeks without touching the project but then I'll get a hankering and I'll go for a few days and I'll just scan film," said Knight.  

It takes him about 45 minutes to develop each roll of film because he does it the old-fashioned way in a darkroom. But to get the pictures to his website, the past must meet the present.

Lost memories of Disneyworld

This photo, which Azriel Knight titled 'Lost Memories of Disneyworld,' was shot with Kodak Gold 400 film - quite possibly the most common colour 35mm film ever. Knight says it looks like the photo was taken during a married couple's trip with their daughter from Canada. (mysteriousdev.com)

He uses a digital scanner, cuts the negatives and waits for the new pictures to reveal themselves.

Knight wants his website to be a "lost film archive" now that the world has gone digital.

"I believe when photos don't belong to anybody, they kind of belong to everybody — they become part of our history," he said.

But if someone does recognize themselves, or people in the photos, he hands over the pictures to them. Knight says solving the mystery is what it's all about.

  • Watch how Knight searches for clues about the photos in the YouTube video below. On mobile? Click here.

Van Douser Tower

This photo from a trip to Wisconsin's Van Douser Tower is dated June 7, 1959. (mysteriousdev.com)