A unique inheritance

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For as far as I remember I have seen my dad buying cameras.

My parents had a house in the countryside with a large basement and since their main common passion was spending time in flea markets, the said basement was the deposit for most of their acquisitions. On top of Cameras, my father collected all sorts of technical devices such as calculators, clocks, typewriters, steam engines, lighters. But also books, miniature cars, medical devices and many “other things” for lack of a better word. And over the years, even the large basement rooms had become overly crowded with shelves, crates and boxes of all sorts.

We had often joked about what I would do with all this stuff when he died, but just like anything that really mattered, we never really got to any serious decision. I frequently asked him to at classify his collections, so that I would at least know what was valuable. But every time he tried, it never really led to any actually usable classification.

When he passed away in November 2020, I inherited a actual mountain of objects. And obviously no trace of any documentation.

I knew there was a lot of stuff but I think that in the last few years, where I had followed him less closely, he accelerated in his purchases. When I started to actually look into the crates, I started to realize the extent of my fathers obsession. I found myself completely overwhelmed by the amount of items. The more I dug the more I found. And the more diverse the items would be.

After a few days in the basement, I emerged with the greatest confusion my mind. I had absolutely no way to mentally encompass what was down there, but I was too close to my father to just sell it all away in bulk.

So I started sorting. Thousand of objects. Some valuable, some just junk and most somewhere in between.

I must say that in that period where I lived among his things, I had the feeling to spent a lot of extra-time “with” my dad, which really helped in the mourning process. I often talked to him, sometimes thinking about him laughing at me when I discovered some strange arcane vintage item that i could not recognize.

But after a few weeks, this obvious conclusion came to me : I could not keep everything. I had to concentrate on a few items and dispatch the rest.

And this is how the 99 Cameras project began. I chose the camera collection which I liked the most and decided to turn it into something different, something that I could “own” beyond just having inherited it. I knew that that was necessary if I wanted to be able to let go of most of the other items.

The first step was to count and somehow sort the cameras that were dispatched in the basement. I purchased 40 large plastic crates and started. I did not have a very deep knowledge about vintage cameras so I spent a lot of time searching the web to identify the various brands and potential interest of each camera. This operation took several months as I could only dedicate a few weekends to it.

Ultimately I counted about 2000 cameras, hundreds of spare objectives and as many various related items. All of which I brought to Paris in a safe deposit.

In the process I ended up learning quite a bit about cameras and definitely got to share a bit of my father’s passion.

I had the feeling that among those 2000 there were enough gems to create a very interesting selection, so I created the fisrt version of the 99 Cameras Coillection. I chose 99 out of the 2000 that I thought had a story to tell. At the time the selection was a bit rough due to my lack of experience in the field, but overall it was an interesting choice.

What I did not know was what to do with this selection and how to share it with the community.

At the time, in 2021, I was involved in a company minting NFTs (Digital collectibles on the blockchain), so I thought it would be fun and innovative to create a collection for people to share by buying digital copies of the individual cameras.