Photographs From Before It Was Cool To Shoot Film

A few years ago photographer Nick Dantzer came across chests of slides, some in unopened slide film packages, in his family’s home in northern Michigan. The photographs belonged to his maternal grandfather, Russell E. Elliott, and while the two never met Dantzer says he sees parallels in their photographic style.“The more I have developed my own photographic subject and style, it's been striking to review these photos half a century later and see how similar our framing and subjects can be.” Now, thanks to his desire to archive and share his grandfather’s prolific collection of photographs - plus the wonders of modern technology - the chests of slides have been digitized and found a home on r.e.elliott.slides.  

Here Dantzer gives Us an insight into Russell E. Elliott and shares a few of his favorite slides.

My grandfather left behind many items of significance. They have weathered the last 40 years fairly well and provided insights into who he was as a man, writer, father, and photographer. Born in Logansport, Indiana in 1906, Russell E. Elliott (R.E. Elliott) lived a peripatetic and at times tragic life, not unlike many of the period. After a stint painting cars and living at the local YMCA in Hoopeston, Illinois, R.E. Elliott finished high school as class president, enrolled at the University of Illinois for a degree in Journalism, wrote poetry, and married his high school sweetheart, Clara Louise.

In the early 1940’s, R.E. Elliott migrated to Detroit, Michigan to serve the Detroit YMCA, which led to further pursuits in education and philanthropy. At some point, he picked up a camera— including the Leica M4 I’m using today. Through the decades until his death in 1977, my grandfather took tens of thousands of photographs, most of which have been resting as Kodachrome and Ektachrome slides at his lake cabin in northern Michigan. Featuring skilled portraits of family, his beloved northern Michigan woods and water, roaring Detroit, and other US travels, the slides are an intimate and quintessential portrait of mid-century America.

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Words: Nick Dantzer