Having been sucked into digital in the early naughties and bled dry by four-figure kit purchases it was time hail out the modest EOS 300 I had in my 20’s and see what further damage I could do to my bank account now all these wonderful and obscure emulsions have appeared on the market.

Leaping off the screen at Analogue Wonderland was Svema. I remember Svema. Oh yes indeed. Unfinished business here. You see, back in 1990, I was in the Soviet Union on a day trip from Sweden, as you do, visiting what was then the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. Estonia, like its neighbours Lithuania and Latvia, had found itself absorbed into Stalin’s USSR at the end of WW2.


I wanted to witness the first stirrings of independence at first hand and, at the time, documented empty shelves, furtive flags unrolled in the main square before being proudly flown for all to see. Going into the main department store, a bizarre shopping experience as anyone who visited the USSR will tell you, I decided to by some local film out of curiosity – Svema.

Opening it in this land of shortages I was dismayed to find that a roll of film was exactly that. A roll of film. No canister. It was now a ruined roll of film. So, 30 years later FPP have defrosted and loaded into canisters some Svema film from Ukraine and these are the results, patiently processed and scanned by Duncan at Silverpan Labs.

Mostly I shot the pics on a walk along London’s Regents Canal during August this year but also went for a wander around the West End soaking up the summer evening vibe. I wanted to see how the film coped with fading light. The answer being, it’s a bit crap as you can see from the pic Neal’s Yard. That was only one stop under. The grain is like sand and the colour also, but not unpleasing when correctly exposed. Might have a go for portraits next time.

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~ Cliff

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Cliff McMahon-Docherty

London photographer, mostly analogue these days. Collector and user of vintage consumer-level cameras. Loves to experiment and hoping to achieve bankruptcy by photography one fine day.

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