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exploring the world of expired film

May 13, 2013

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The great thing about shooting film is that very few people do it anymore, which means that ex film photographers are more than willing to give you the 35mm that’s been sitting in their fridge since 1995 — for free. This is how I’ve become the lucky recipient of many a roll of expired film over the years. Recently, a lovely reader saw one of my photos in an issue of Spirituality & Health and sent me a dozen rolls all the way from California (the above shots are the result of one of those rolls). Even more recently, a bloke from Brussels offered to send a whole whack of expired B&W film after seeing me on an episode of Man Lab and subsequently finding his way to my blog. It’s like Christmas in May over here, peeps.

But the first time this happened was in Montreal, where one of my neighbours on Casgrain Avenue gave me an entire bag of film upon seeing me walking the street with a Pentax K1000 glued to my eyeballs (film shooters have become somewhat of a cult and the clunky click of the the Pentax does not go unnoticed). My first attempt was with a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 160 Tungsten, expired in 1986. The results were perfectly flawed and grainy and eerie, evoking nostalgia and the feeling that they’d actually been taken in the 80’s. I initially struggled to like them because there was something somewhat dark and spooky about them and OMGee what if I freaked people out? But then photography is entirely subjective isn’t? Where one person sees the light, someone else notices the shadows. One might see the smile on someone’s face while another focuses on the sadness in their eyes.

In my opinion, expired film is just like using a moody filter on Instagram. Suddenly, photos take on a life they didn’t quite have before. And the beauty of expired film is that no two rolls are alike. Each roll gives completely different results. Some are unsaturated, most underexposed, some grainy, others flecked, many are dull and lacking contrast, while some come out too red or slightly on the green side. If Forest Gump were a photographer, he might have said that life is like a box of expired film… you never know what you are going to get. And for a control freak like me, the magic of expired film is a welcome breath of fresh air.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Alison permalink
    May 13, 2013 7:22 am

    These photos and your words are like a breath of fresh air for me too. You are beauty.

  2. May 13, 2013 12:55 pm

    I love these. They really do come off like old photos, and it is just beautiful, your eye.

    And that quote, I LOVE IT! xoxox

  3. May 13, 2013 6:04 pm

    Wonderful photo;s…the processing is great…

  4. May 13, 2013 8:57 pm

    great photos. this has happened to me too. just the other day a colleague brought in a couple of rolls that were sitting in her fridge for a few years. can’t wait to try them.

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