Thursday August 20, 2015

Polaroid collector seeks help to identify people in thousands of images

(Photos courtesy of Kyler Zeleny )

Listen 6:47

Kyler Zeleny has an unusual hobby. Over the years, the Canadian student has collected more than 6,000 polaroid pictures. He doesn't know the people in the photos.

Kyler Zeleny

Kyler Zeleny is asking the public to help him identify the people in his collection of polaroid pictures. (Photo courtesy of Kyler Zeleny)

"It started with flea markets and thrift shops," he tells As it Happens guest host Matt Galloway. "But, the vast majority come from the electronic thrift shop: eBay. For every one that I could collect in person, I was able to probably collect hundreds online."

Now, Zeleny has started a project called Found Polaroids. With the help of the public, he's hoping to identify the people in his polaroid pictures. 

"The options were to let them sit in a dark basement or closet ... Or, we could try to give them some new life."

Earlier this week, Zeleny received a reply.  

"Someone contacted me because of all the press we've been getting recently and they said 'oh my god, this is an image of me,'" he says. "I'm excited that she may be able to tell us about other individuals in that set and the story might start to unfold."

Realizing that it might be difficult to identify all the people in the polaroids, Zeleny has also turned his endeavour into a creative writing project. He's asking the public to submit fictional short stories about the images.

"One of the magics of this project is that we can look at the images and kind of imagine who this person could have been."

Zeleny's favourite polaroid: "It's a beautiful 65-year-old man staring into the camera with a beautiful green background. I see his whole life from my perspective ... I feel that I know his story."

Here's a selection of Zeleny's polaroids. Do you know anyone in them? 

Kyler Zeleny Polaroids

Kyler Zeleny Polaroid 6

Kyler Zeleny Polaroid 5

Kyler Zeleny Polaroid 4

Kyler Zeleny Polaroid 3

Kyler Zeleny Polaroid 2

Kyler Zeleny Polaroid 1

Photos courtesy of Kyler Zeleny