Photo Series ‘The Unseen Seen’ Features a Collection of Classic Movie Film Rolls

THE UNSEEN SEEN, Alien, 1979Austrian photographer Reiner Riedler pays homage to a sister visual medium, cinema, in his decidedly odd project. The Unseen Seen is a picture collection of film rolls, not just ordinary specimens of these; mind you, but some of the heavyweight classics from cinema’s masters. What seems to be another self indulgent foray into a flighty idea actually yields some surprising, if not bizarrely truthful images. Thanks to Riedler’s friend, Volkmar Ernst, they were able to get their hands on the old film archive of The Deutsche Kinemathek in Berlin, which describes itself as “The whole world of cinema under one roof – from the first moving images to digital film.”

THE UNSEEN SEEN, Alice in Wonderland, 1951

THE UNSEEN SEEN, The Godfather, 1972

Not to waste this singular opportunity, Riedler took pictures of any of the rolls he could access, spanning the gamut of classic movies to experimental oddities. Quite surprisingly, some of the rolls of film resembled the stories they contain.  The Godfather, for instance looks to have the same dark, but rich color values you find in the movie set in post World War 2 America. Alien by Ridley Scott from 1979 reveals some scaly looking patterns that look, well, alienish. The 1942 Disney classic, Bambi gives off a radiant Glow, while Nosferatu from 1922 directed by F.W.Murnau, a very early Dracula based tale, is an ominous black.

THE UNSEEN SEEN, Scarface, 1932

THE UNSEEN SEEN, The Great Dictator, 1940

Riedler elaborates on his concept for The Unseen Seen,

“The concept is to confront the viewer with the image of an object (filmrolls) and in doing so recall images from the spectator’s memory. By reading the movie title, I want to generate emotions and images from our memory.

I got access to the film archive and museum „The Deutsche Kinemathek“ in Berlin through my friend Volkmar Ernst, who works there as a technician. I drew up a list of well-known films and those with unusual titles. I set up a little photostudio inside the cinema of the archive and backlit the film rolls by installing film lights behind the objects, lighting each roll in the same way for continuity. The result was a collection of images of a few hundred filmrolls.

Through the act of collecting and selecting the film rolls I noticed analogies between the colour and the shape of the rolls, and the content of the movies.

Besides the nostalgic connotation concerning the movie itself, there is the nostalgia concerned with the loss of a tradition. This projcet also deals with this loss – „the dying of film“.

THE UNSEEN SEEN, Casablanca, 1942 THE UNSEEN SEEN, King Kong, 1933

It is an interesting project with very unexpected and amusing results that you can view thru Riedlers website.

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Patricia Ramos

Patricia Ramos

I am a freelance photographer who is no stranger to smudged lenses, long hours in front of the computer, heavy camera bags (and the back aches that ensued) and missing lens caps. If you know what I'm talking about, you probably have as much love and passion for photography as I do.