Sometimes technical perfection counts less than the artistic adventure of trying new things, and I recently decided to join the growing number of photogs shooting expired film. This was a tough departure for me – I almost always shoot Fujifilm NEOPAN 100 ACROS or sometimes ILFORD Delta 100 Professional and carefully develop it with an eye for excellence.
Finding nine rolls of East German ORWO NP22 was a perfect departure point. The film expired in December 1991, and I had no idea about its storage conditions in the 30 or so years before it reached me. The packaging was well preserved for its age, though I was surprised at how old school the backing paper looked. It is as if only the brand name changed from AGFA to ORWO and the rest was unchanged from the switchover to the ORWO brand in 1964.
Pulling the original ISO 125 rating to EI 80 to account for loss of sensitivity over 30 years, I emulated development times for ILFORD FP4 PLUS and developed the film in stock ILFORD DD-X at 18 degrees C (64F) with 4 gentle inversions over 10 seconds every minute, followed by a water stop, fixer and wash aid, final rinse.
The negatives turned out better than expected. They had good contrast and interestingly, they dried without any curling or curvature – a scanner’s dream! Unlike modern emulsions, the film rebate printing is barely visible, simply showing a small ‘NP22’ and frame number.
There are a few dark spots visible against the sky in some images. Having developed film for 20 years, I never have development issues with modern films. My normally technically obsessive self would cringe — I’m careful on the developer mixing, agitation technique and tapping the tank to release bubbles. Are they age spots? Air bells? Who knows. More importantly, who cares!
On this adventure, the artist in me embraces them as they add to the story to compliment a beautiful tonal range and vintage feel. Whatever your photographic obsessions are, free yourself to try something new – you may find a new love.
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This series is produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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