I’d like to tell you a story. Well, my story about why I use expired film.
The short version is that I have created some of my best images using expired film, and will continue to do so for a long time! The longer version continues below…
My story began in 2009 when I was given my father’s old Canon A-1 SLR, along with a couple of lenses. In the past he worked as a photographer and decided to keep his old gear for a day when it would be used again.
He also saved a lot of great expired 35mm film that has lived its entire life in a freezer. It meant that when I took over his gear and film, I was able to use it at its native ISO and get some great results!
As time went on, I went made my way through the film and experienced – mostly through trial and error – how to best use my Canon A-1 and get the results I wanted. At this time I didn’t really think about the age of the film and and any problems, I just shot it at its native ISO.
In 2011, a friend of mine who works in a museum asked me if I wanted 50 rolls of first generation Kodak T-MAX 400. It had been cold stored in a freezer, so of course I said yes. During a meeting over coffee, I received a bag with 50 rolls of film and didn’t look back.
The film had expired in 1989 and carried the old T-MAX 400 logo!
That old T-MAX 400 gave me a couple of years of joy. I didn’t have to be afraid to waste film, as I had so much in the freezer. This this helped create a relaxed style of photography for me, where I was able to create great work and just have fun with the process.
It was also with the those T-MAX films that I learned how to work with expired film and (finally) compensate for the age of the media.
In 2014 the T-MAX was running out and another friend asked me if I wanted 50+ rolls of color 35mm film that (again) had been stored in a freezer and were somewhere around 10+ years old. Deja yu: I said yes please and began my color C-41 adventure, which officially ended with me shooting my last roll of Kodak Supra 400 in September 2016.
These rolls were also the excuse (or catalyst) I needed to begin developing my own C-41 film at home, a process that at first was scary but now is really easy.
With C-41 I learned how odd colors can get when color film ages; and I also learned to stop thinking about “correct” colors and just have fun!
One day in September 2016 I came to this conclusion:
Expired film is where I want to be. It is easy to say no and just get fresh film but for me, that is boring. I want the odd colors, uneven grain and tricky shadows that can cause an image to become very contrasty!
And this is where my story currently ends…if end is indeed the right word. Only time will tell when and how the next batch of expired film arrives in my hands.
Shooting expired film has allowed me to explore the physical act of film photography and development – colour and black and white. It’s also helped me to refine my DSLR scanning system, something which I needed to do because of the amount of film I had to hand! And finally its helped be to accept imperfections, fuzzy grain and unexpected results.
In short, it makes me very happy!
~ Sina Farhat
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