Doug Battenhausen thinks all our advances in cellphone cameras and photo-sharing technology haven’t made our pictures better, but rather more sterile. We all know how to get the perfect selfie now, with just the right filter. But to him, that’s boring.
What Battenhausen is interested in — and has been collecting since 2010 on his blog, “Internet History” — are photos that are beautifully amateurish and capture strange moments.
To find these types of photos, Battenhausen mines the forgotten reaches of the internet, particularly defunct photo accounts on sites like (the now deleted) Webshots, Flickr, or Photobucket.
“If there’s one rule I try to keep to all the time, it’s that I try to find pictures that have been abandoned,” Battenhausen said. “If you’re still actively using your photo-sharing website, I don’t want to encroach on that. Through ‘Internet History,’ I think I’m giving a second life to orphans.”
But Battenhausen doesn’t just take any old photo. He has a remarkable eye for finding ones that can evoke some emotion. He describes them as sometimes funny, sometimes bad, but usually photos that give him a feeling of “comforting sadness.”
The photos on his site, which were once featured in an exhibit at the Rhode Island School of Design, are both bizarre and everyday at the time. Perhaps the best word to describe them is wistful.
See some of the photos below:
An earlier version of this article was published by Nathan McAlone.