The Joy of Discovering a Vintage Film Camera! Who Did It Belong To?

There are some aspects of film photographs that can’t be replicated with digital.

To paraphrase Becki and Chris, you might have shot a roll or more of film and then drop them off at a photo lab. And then, by the time you picked it up a few weeks later, you’d get rolls of film back that were usually awful images. To make matters worse, you often didn’t remember or write down what the settings were, so there wasn’t that instant feedback loop for improvement.

Despite all this, there has been a noticeable resurgence in film photography. One aspect might be the materiality of film. In contrast to digital photography, film photography yields a very tangible object, which can be held and manipulated.

In this video, we follow Becki and Chris as they discover an old camera. The exciting part is that have no idea about what is on the film nor much recollection of who the camera may have belonged to.

Finding an old digital camera is also just as likely; however, the difference here is that ofte,n digital files are stored and retrieved in a very different, instant manner. I don’t keep any record of digital files on the camera itself; the files are emptied after every shoot. But clearly, it isn’t the same for film rolls.

It is almost like a treasure hunt to discover what hidden memories or secrets may emerge from this rediscovered treasure.  

Ali Choudhry's picture

Ali Choudhry is a photographer in Australia. His photographic practice aims to explore the relationship with the self, between the other, and the world. Through use of minimalist compositions and selective use of color and form he aims to invoke what he calls the "breath". He is currently working towards a BA (Honours) in Photography.

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Chris says he thinks that the roll was just too old but I doubt that is the case. Having worked in a photo lab for years, it's amazing how many rolls like this are actually unused and blank. I have no idea how people push the tab into the roll and then leave it in the camera but it happens A LOT. The tabs always get cut off before running them through the developer but you can't, as far as I know, have a negative develop clear if it's been exposed to light. I've developed some really old, newly discovered rolls of film and they almost always produce something that proves they aren't blank. Now if the lab messed something up, like ran it through the wrong chemicals, then sometimes they might say it's blank just to cover themselves.

I usually develop and scan my own sheet film and honestly, give me that over 35mm any day. I've done 35mm literally once and for what it is, would much rather just send it off to a lab. Both these were black and white but still. I think that's that magic of film though; there is always that one off chance of getting nothing back; but also the surprise of when you do get something back that you don't even remember taking or what you did. Almost like a mini time capsule or something.

But what you said reminds me of Broomberg and Chanarin's "The Day Nobody Died". Are you familiar with it? It's almost like an intentional way of 'ruining' film.