Benjamin Dome didn’t have any hope of seeing his grandfather’s old film camera after it was taken in Ethiopia three year ago.
The Nikon F-E vanished after Dome, a bus driver, drove off while Dome visited the country to photograph Mursi tribe.
“I went out there just before the pandemic, about three years ago,” the London-based photographer tells PetaPixel.
I was on a journey and told the driver that we would stop and get food, before returning to the hotel
Dome and the other travelers got out of their van and took the grandfather’s camera with him.
This sparked panic and a rush to locate the driver at night when there was still a curfew.
“We found some army and explained what happened and they started banging on the gates of the hotel,” explains Dome.
When the group entered the hotel, they discovered the driver. He “said that he didn’t know anything” and they searched the van.
“They put the driver in a police vehicle to try and look for other stuff, they went to a bar and interrogated a man with their truncheons,” says Dome.
The police promised Dome that they would find his grandfather’s camera, but he left Ethiopia empty-handed.
“It had my roll of film I was shooting on inside the camera. I was gutted I’d lost the photos and gutted I’d lost my grandad’s camera.”
All Seemed Lost
Dome has been visiting the Mursi people in the Horn of Africa with anthropologist Dr. David Turton for 20 years.
I went back to London but Dome said that he had told a friend from the village to watch out for the camera and to check in with police whenever possible.”
Time passed, and Dome lost the camera of his grandfather that had sentimental value. But Dome didn’t give up on hope.
“About eight months ago, I reminded my friend to look. He sent me a link on Facebook of a guy posing with it and said ‘Is this your camera?
After Dome’s friend went to retrieve the camera, they checked the serial numbers. It was indeed the stolen Nikon.
In March 2022, three years after Dome lost the camera, he traveled back to East Africa where he got his hands on the lost instrument.
“It read 36 frames on the roll, so no one’s opened it meaning my film is still inside,” he says.
” The winder had been removed from the top, and the film taken out of the canister. But my exposed film was definitely inside.”
Dome struggled to open the camera but managed to pry the film out and get it into a safe pot. His struggles didn’t end there.
I finally managed to open the film with it, but I don’t recall how I exposed it,” he said.
” I know that good practice dictates that I write the information on the canister prior to taking photos, but it is not always feasible. The camera was stolen .”
After much soul-searching Dome decided to get the film developed as ISO 200.
” “I felt it would make a good base to start from, provided the film had not been exposed for the last two years.” Dome says.
After a nail-biting wait, the film came back with beautiful black-and-white images of Ethiopians on it.
Needless to say, Dome was thrilled to not only retrieve the pictures he had traveled so far to capture but also, to have his grandfather’s camera back in his possession.
“I’m hoping to have an exhibition next year with more pics from the ‘stolen roll’ and 20 years of visiting the Mursi,” he adds.
“I’ll be posting a video of the whole journey to retrieve the camera on my new YouTube vlog too.”
For the upcoming video and to see more of Dome’s work, visit his YouTube, website, and Instagram.