Springs Man and Lost Camera Reunited, with Help from Strangers

The lost-and-found camera, left, and the photo that Hampton Photo Arts printed to help reunite the camera with its owner, right. Chris Grodzki photo

Photographs document history and tell stories, and in Chris Grodzki’s case, a photograph also helped solve a mystery and reunite Mr. Grodzki with a cherished possession.

In mid-June, Mr. Grodzki, of Springs, discovered he had misplaced his camera, a Yashica camera that shoots on 35-millimeter film, during a beach outing in East Hampton with his family. It was a camera he’d had for at least 12 years. He much preferred film and negatives to digital images when capturing special moments with his one-year-old son, Eddy.

Later that day, Mr. Grodzki said this week, he happened to check his iPhone photo log and realized he inadvertently had snapped a photo of the moment he last saw his camera: on top of his car, right before he headed to the beach via Fort Pond Boulevard. He traced back his route, searching the roads for any sign of the camera, which had been in a leather pouch made by his own business, the Stanley and Sons Apron and Bag Company. With no sign of it, and the sun setting that day, he went home, dismayed. He later filed a police report for the missing camera.

Shortly before that, Randall Rosenthal, a Springs resident, had found the camera in the street. His wife, Caren Sturmer, relayed the story on Instagram.

“He knocked on a neighbor’s door and when it didn’t belong to them, he hung it on our rusty old mailbox,” she wrote. “The weather forecast was for rain and I fretted about someone other than the owner taking it, so I put it in my car.”

Ms. Sturmer, too, filed a police report — this one for “property found” — and put up a sign at the Springs General Store. She also took the camera, along with the exposed roll of film that was in the pouch, to Hampton Photo Arts in Bridgehampton. There, office manager Jeff McMahon had an idea. He developed the roll of film free-of-charge and made a print from the negatives to see if the camera’s owner could be recognized. Indeed, after he developed a print of Mr. Grodzki’s wife, Lindsay Grodzki, holding Eddy, Ms. Sturmer was able to follow some clues and network into the Springs community. Soon the camera found its way home after about a month away from its owner.

Ms. Sturmer — whose Instagram posts collected nearly 140 comments and more than 500 likes — called it a happy ending. Mr. McMahon agreed.

“It was pretty cool the way it worked out,” he said this week. “It was a good thing to do in this world of craziness.”

Mr. Grodzki said they “went above and beyond” in helping out.

“The camera is replaceable, of course. They’re no longer made, but it’s still something you can find,” he said. “It’s really wonderful, not so much the object, but how it was found. I was telling people if I dropped it in the ocean I could look down there and know that I’ll never see it again, but at least I would know where it is. Having it returned to me is a whole other level of excitement.”