Photographer Buys Back Own Work After Lost Archive Found at Flea Market

A photographer was recently reunited with his lost photographs after another photographer happened to stumble upon them at a flea market. Photographer-turned-filmmaker Alexi Tan lost his entire photographic archive some time ago while shooting his first feature film in China. He had accidentally let his credit card expire, leading his New York-based storage company to auction off his archive.

This past June, photographer Henry Leutwyler was strolling through a Manhattan flea market when he came across boxes of prints, negatives, and contact sheets. The boxes were labeled: “Alexi Tan”. Leutwyler recognized Tan’s name, and, guessing that the photos might have been sold by a storage company, snapped a few photos of the archive.

He then managed to get in touch with Tan, who confirmed that it was indeed a lost archive. The next week, Leutwyler returned to the market and purchased the collection of work for $800. In early September, he noticed more of Tan’s work at the same market and managed to help buy those images as well (including a photo of a young Leonardo DiCaprio).

Tan has arranged for a friend in the US to reimburse Leutwyler and store the archive until Tan returns to the states, and thanks Leutwyler for being “a stranger with a kind heart.”

(via PDN Pulse via The Click)

Image credit: Photograph by Henry Leutwyler and used with permission

  • doormouse

    That is a touching story. Goes to show how awesome some people can be.

  • Anonymous

    Key advice: dont store valuables in storage facilities. Thats a place for furniture and other junk you dont care about. I would have left these items at a trusted friends house and paid him for the storage

  • Anonymous

    Trusted friends and their spouses can toss stuff too.

    The key point (other than this really just being about someone being a good samaritan, it’s a happy warm fuzzy story) is either pay for the storage or pray for nice people like Henry to happen across your repo’d goods.

  • Anonymous

    I bet the cost of buying them back was less than the storage fees he would have paid.

    After years of storing things, I finally woke up and gave it all away, with the stipulation they had to take it all.

  • Andrew MacDonald

    You would have thought the storage company would have dropped him a letter or two to tell him there was a balance outstanding due to his card being declined. So he should have had plenty of time to either collect his stuff or pay the bill… not sure why he didn’t act on that. 

    Although I am not from the US, so im not sure whether storage companies would send a courtesy letter about an outstanding bill, though I’d have thought they would. 

  • Richard Ford

    Safety deposit box or secure storage facility….. Link it to a bank account.

    /Captain Obvious.

  • Anonymous

    Well, it does say he was in China at the time.  I imagine there might be a lag in how long the news took to reach him.

  • Charlotte Fairchild

     Mark Twain once wanted to contact a friend. He sent a letter to China and within a week the friend contacted him. He wasn’t in China.