Les Anderson

35 Weeks of Scanning My Grandfather’s Vintage Film

Why I’m doing it, what it looks like, and what’s next


Thirty-five weeks ago I started scanning Les’ old photos. Les was my grandfather. To create a rhythm, I posted one to social media and matched each with a photo of my own. The only rule was I set for myself was to post a pair every day. Before I knew it, eight months had passed.

Some of the photos used in the first 35 weeks

The Beginning: Why?

I started this to get myself to take more photos. It was that simple. I wanted to share Les’ photos with the world, but I couldn’t be sure anyone else would be interested. At the time, I didn’t have any idea what was in Les’ collection. I suspected the majority of them would be generic family photos or failed experiments.

I was wrong. Incredibly wrong. Les was a very proficient shooter; a great technician with a real good eye. Yes, there are thousands of family photos but some of them are pretty awesome family photos.

My father // Family in Oregon // Les in Germany

There are also plenty of fascinating, non-family photos.

China // USA // Switzerland

Once it became obvious that Les took some stunning photos from all over the world, I knew I had to keep this going. You see, my family knew that Les took incredible photos but we also thought we’d seen the best of them!

Les printed photos on foam board and put them up all over his cabin in Crescent, Oregon. Amazing photos from all over the world: Germany, China, across the United States, and Africa.

The majority of the photos I’ve scanned haven’t been seen by any of my family members. Most of the photos should be seen by a broader public. I think their quality warrants that.

I started this for me, but I’m keeping it going for much more.

The Middle: Work

Organization and little things are the keys to this. I scan on an EPSON V850 scanner and import photos into Lightroom. First, I tag every photo with anything I can think of. City, people, mountains, etc. Simple things.

I keep track of what I have posted and what I haven’t with labels and tags in Lightroom. I also turned an old monitor into my own light box or sorts for viewing the slides before I load them into the scanner.

I’ve moved away from working on this every single day. It was incredibly difficult to keep that going with other commitments. I declared Wednesdays as “Photo Day” each week. No matter what else I’ve got going on, I sit down to scan, edit, tag, and schedule social media posts. Wednesday is the middle of the week and every time I’ve tried to do something like this on, say a Saturday, it’s been a disaster. Wednesday works.

The End: Not Close to Being Done

I started with nothing. No plan, no idea what I was going to do next or how long this would last. I didn’t even get excited about this until people started commenting on the photos I had scanned. People love Les’ photos.

With that in mind, I started to do as much as I could to improve the experience every week. I admire places like Unsplash that can improve so rapidly so that quickly became my goal. Not to create a site like Unsplash but to improve like they do (on a bit of a smaller scale).I started with emailing the photos out. Then I created a site and I’m improving that weekly.

The next big thing? I’m making my and Les’ photos available for sale on December 1st — but not in the way you might expect.


Follow along: Instagram // Twitter // Facebook
Some unreleased photos from Les :)
Next week: “Finding Purpose with Les’ Photos”