Dear Benice,

As my film stash grows it’s taking up more and more space in the fridge, much to my better half’s consternation. Any advice on how to delicately manage this situation? I’ll only need more space as time goes on.

For the record, I always ensure there is enough space left for her Chardonnay.

Yours in fear of a chilly reception,

Dandeep Dum’al
London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

Dear Dandeep, have we met? You have an awfully familiar name…

Regardless, thank you for writing in with what must be two of the most common problems facing the modern film photographer in a long-term relationship. Firstly, trying to seamlessly integrate your hobby into daily household life, and secondly driving your partner into latent alcoholism. It’s probably too late to do much about the second problem beyond making sure the car keys are locked away and only buying screw-tops, but let’s see if I can help you with the first.

As hobbies go, film photography is one of the more pervasive in terms of the effect it has on a household. Sure, you don’t have cages filled with straw and guinea pig sh!t stinking out the place, a V8 engine from your truck sat in the middle of the lounge dripping oil onto your shag carpet, or your very own meth lab in the basement, but it’s also no golf stick and a bag of balls. In your letter, you talk about the issue of filling the fridge with film, but let’s be real, that’s just the tip of the iceberg lettuce sat squashed in the salad drawer.

For a start, there are the cameras…because there’s never just one, is there? Film shooters have the same level of restraint as a crow in an eyeball factory when it comes to the acquisition of cameras, and a level of logic pretzelling for justifying purchases usually reserved for politicians executing a perfect u-turn live on air:

“I bought this because some bloke on Instagram took a picture with one and it looked great!”

“I need this in case the other 3 identical cameras I already have break.”

“I had to get this, even though I had no interest in shooting it before today, because I just learned they’re getting rare!”

“Yes, it may look identical to the cameras I already own, but this one has bulb mode”

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“It would’ve been stupid NOT to buy this – they’re only going up in value – it’s an investment!”

And so they come and keep coming until there’s no nook or cranny that doesn’t have a Sureshot shoved up it. You could (and will) make the case that some of them have decorative value, but everything that came along after the 70’s has a face only a drunken mother could love. Add to this, the jumbled pile of lenses which goes hand in hand with any collection of cameras (especially the half dozen different 50mm’s you just have to have because they’ve all got “such a unique feel”), and you’ve made the most efficient dust collecting method known to humanity.

Throw in tripods, filters, cable releases, flash-guns, gels and any other pointless tat that can be vaguely labelled as “photographic” and you’ve got just enough crap laying around to justify all the bloody camera bags that also infest the house. I’m increasingly convinced the entire modern photographic industry exists only so that men can buy themselves the handbags they’ve always wanted without embarrassment.

If this little lot was all your other half had to contend with then arguably you’d already be in the hole for regular meals out, a week somewhere hot and footing half the booze bill at the very least, but it doesn’t end here…

Developing tanks, measuring jugs, and bottles and bottles of noxious chemicals ready to catch the resident late-night drinker completely by surprise are the real test of a relationship.  It’s all fun and games being Dr Science mixing up chemicals, right up until you spill bleach on literally anything, or use the last coffee filter to strain the remjet out of you C41 developer AND THEN PUT IT BACK IN THE BOX, then you’ll be really glad your hobby doesn’t include much in the way of sharp-edged tools. Obviously, I’m assuming here you aren’t just spending your life’s savings or your kid’s college funds on sending all your film off to be developed, the cowards way out.

Finally, we come to the fridge, the symbolic battleground in the photographer vs civilised living war. On the one hand, there’s you, buying film with the same repetitive compulsion as a dog sniffing other dogs backsides. Regardless of whether you actually have any need to at all, whether you’ll ever shoot it, or whether you even have a camera that’ll use it, you just can’t help yourself, can you? On the other hand is your partner, who is most certainly a better person than you, just trying to keep food in the fridge for your now utterly disillusioned family. It’s T-MAX vs chilled snacks, Portra vs pate, Fomapan vs glazed ham and Velvia vs Velveeta. You want a box of 4×5, they want half a watermelon, a tub of olives, and just lately an ever-increasing amount of wine. At least they have the decency to drink the wine though and don’t just stand and look at it wondering if they should get more.

It’s not that you’re being a selfish git. I mean it obviously is, just not entirely. Almost entirely selfish then, but there are other things at play here. Those rolls of films are little bundles of potential, each one a nugget of possibility that could raise you and your miserable fridge sharing existence to another plane of art, critical acclaim and worldwide adoration. Sure, the odds aren’t great, based on your back catalogue of moody pictures of pavements and annoyed ducks, but that’s the reason to have more film – it’s like lottery tickets, the more you have the better the chances of taking that winning shot. Even if you never get around to shooting them, just looking into your fridge will feel you with the warm glow of knowing that your great work might just be in there…somewhere…waiting to be shot.

So, what to do, what to do?

Well, there are a few paths you could follow. A mini fridge is a great way to solve these disputes. Put it in the bedroom on your partner’s side and keep it stocked with booze – it’s hard to care much about chilled real estate when you’re permanently walking the hippo. If that doesn’t appeal then take the traditional path of the unpopular hobbyist and go for self-ostracisation – get yourself a garden shed, but one of those ones with an underground bunker. Bunkers are always cool, both literally and figuratively, and serve the dual purpose of holding a dragon’s hoard of film AND giving you and your better half a place to hide when the inevitable global apocalypse strikes. This may sound a bit grim, but just think of the photographic opportunities waiting for you in the blasted ruins of London (or wherever it is you live), and you with all that nice carefully stored film to shoot.

…not to mention that after the enforced detox your partner will have to go through while you wait for the radiation to clear, they’ll be in far better shape to carry all of those camera bags for you, and fight off any angry three-arsed-mutants that try to attack you while you’re framing up a shot.

Who knows, maybe one day you’ll even want to square the circle and trade a roll of your vintage Tasma Mikrat for a slightly fresher roasted street rat. Just think how glad your other half will be then that you overindulged your hobby for all those years, at the expense of those who loved you despite your obvious failings as a partner.

Here’s hoping there’s no Fallout from this response,

~ Benice x

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About the author

Avatar - Benice Shofil

Benice Shofil

It's Benice, not Bernice. Let's get that straight. I was born in was known as Czechoslovakia in June 1932. My parents were immigrants who named me after the area of Prague where they first met. I studied in both Prague and Leipzig, and spent 50 years working...

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