When photojournalist Reid Blackburn perished in the volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980 while he was on assignment to document the eruption, his camera equipment was so severely damaged that they couldn’t salvage any of his shots from that historic day. Recently, however, a photo assistant for The Columbian found a roll that he shot weeks before the fatal blast. It, as it turns out, contained images that he took of the volcano weeks before the eruption.
Linda Lutes, who works for The Columbian, the local newspaper that Blackburn was covering the eruption for, recently discovered the lost roll, which had been sitting unprocessed in its canister in a studio storage box for about 33 years now, and had it developed. The black-and-white negatives revealed Blackburn’s aerial photos of the volcano before blasted its top off and changed its own landscape forever.
The Columbian suggested that Blackburn must have shot the roll while on assignment in April but might not have felt the shots good enough to be processed.
However, while he had indeed made more remarkable images of the volcano, the ones from this lost roll are somehow more meaningful as they were found years after the death of a photographer who was not only revered and loved by his colleagues but also dedicated enough to his craft and his job that he risked his life for it.