Discovery stories are always a favorite here in our community. As film photography fans, it's easy to find ourselves rooting for such tales since we love seeing old gear being brought back to life and appreciated by a new generation of like-minded people. This is one of these incredible stories!
Kristen Cusumano and her partner chanced upon racks filled with boxes while working on clearing up storage space in Massachusetts. At first, they thought that it was just going to be a few boxes here and there but as it turns out, it was a whole collection of vintage photo gear. And by a whole collection, we mean a camera collector's dream come true. The number of camera gear they discovered reached well into the thousands and they still haven't finished listing all of them yet. We reached out to Kristen to find out more about this remarkable discovery.
Hi Kristen, and welcome to the Lomography Magazine! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hello! My name is Kristen and I am a working mom from a small fishing town in Massachusetts. I have two little boys ages eleven and five and I work at a tanning salon in town. This past winter, my boyfriend and I came across an amazing opportunity. My boyfriend Fridrik does odd jobs for my boss and one of these jobs turned out to be an amazing experience for both me and him!
How did you discover the camera collection?
My boss owns an apartment across from the salon where I work and the bottom floor is used as a large storage unit. The man who rented the unit had sadly passed away and it has been left behind for a little over a year. With no next of kin to take it over and far too much stuff for my boss to go through himself, we were tasked with the job of emptying it. Our pay would be selling whatever we were to find inside.
This was perfect for us as we are huge fans of projects like this! My boss told us the man who previously rented the unit was a big film camera collector and enthusiast. So we knew going in that there would be some cameras in there that could be of value. But we had no idea what we were in for! When Fridrik brought the first few boxes to our apartment we figured we might have a couple hundred cameras in the unit.
What was your reaction upon seeing the collection for the first time?
We were excited at this point! It wasn’t until New Year’s Eve (two weeks later) when he decided to bring all of the camera boxes to our apartment, that we realized we were in way over our heads. We had come to the realization that we had a camera collection consisting of well over 1,000 cameras and probably more than 1,000 lenses! The vast majority of the collection was comprised of Miranda and Minolta gear. There was also a good amount of FEDs, Voigtlanders, Zorkis, Zenits, Fujicas, Yashicas, Pentaxes, Prakticas, Mamiya Sekors, Exaktas, Olympuses, Exas, Petris, Konicas, some TLRs, and other brands.
It's a fantastic discovery story. How did you catalog and curate all the items in the collection? What challenges did you encounter during the process?
The man was a serious collector and he clearly loved these cameras because the majority of them are in amazing shape for their age! Each one was covered in bubble wrap so unboxing and finding space for them all has become one of our biggest problems. My entire tiny apartment has been taken over by cameras and lenses! Every inch of empty space has been taken over as camera storage. I am a very organized person and some may even go as far as to call me a “clean freak” so this has been a big stress for me!
Coming into the apartment now, you wouldn’t even know we had the collection. I’ve gotten very good at “concealing” the cameras. We have been slowly learning about each brand, and model and have had some great success selling them on eBay! We take our time to ensure that we list everything that we want to sell.
Neither of us is a photographer so we don't have all of the information at the moment. However, I have always loved photography and consider myself a self-taught artist. I took photo classes every year in high school so I know a little about it but not enough to answer the many questions that come along with selling these beautiful vintage pieces. So that too, has become quite a task!
How did you decide which pieces to sell and which to keep?
This has basically become my third job alongside my job at the salon and my main role as a mom! We honestly have enough cases, flashes, tripods, adapters, filters, body caps, lens caps, magazines, mounts, books, pamphlets, price guides, and service manuals to open up a store. The most valuable items we’ve found so far have been a Minolta MD 135 mm 1:2 lens that we sold for $2,300, a Minolta CLE in a bag with two M-Rokkor lenses, and a Leica lens.
Cataloging has been near impossible being that I hardly have time to list things on eBay as it is. So we have just separated each camera by brand and have been slowly picking away at each one, listing cameras we have found to be most popular! I have been open to having people message me directly for requests on certain items, but warn people that it may take me a bit to get back to them as I am one busy lady!
Do you have any future plans after this discovery?
We plan to only keep a few items. I’ve grown fond of the older cameras and TLRs. Fridrik loves the Nikon F and the Miranda Orions. Our plans are to continue slowly selling them on my eBay page for as long as possible! It’s been four months since these beautiful little ‘memory catchers’ have come into my life, and they have been quite the blessing!
We’ve gotten a few requests to sell the entire collection as a whole but we aren’t interested in going that route! I am happy knowing where each piece is going, and knowing that they will most likely be in the hands of people who will put them to use! They’re too beautiful to have been stored in that dark storage unit for so long, so I’m thrilled to be able to bring them back to life!
We'd like to thank Kristen for sharing her story with us. Follow her store on eBay to see all of their listed camera gear.