Now I know I’ve been banging on about the loss of knowledge as regards analogue magnetic media – audio and video tape – but yesterday I was reminded that it’s not just knowing about magnetic media that’s important.
Yesterday when I was cataloguing some unused films at the project:
Now, the shop closed in 1968, a couple of years after decimalisation, but the film stock is older – the latest film has an expiry date in the late sixties – March 1969 – but a lot has earlier expiry dates – mostly the mid sixties but some, in an obscure size, the mid fifties of the last century.
I guess, that as the owners never threw anything away they just kept the stale film stock on the shelves in case someone was desperate enough to buy it.
Now, from my teenage years well into the nineteen nineties I was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, developing and printing my own pictures – even had my own home lab at one stage, and consequently I thought I would be reasonably familiar with the material – Kodachrome, Tri-X, EktaChrome and Ilford FP4 and HP5 – all as 35mm film of course, and consequently should be fairly straightforward to document.
Well, how the mighty are fallen.
Well there’s a small amount of 35mm film, but most of it was in earlier formats 120, 127 and even 616, but no 126 film, which was strange it was first released in 1963, but at least all the formats that I found had been documented.
But it was a different story with the film types. While some that were still in use in the 1990’s, such as Kodak Tri-X and Ektachrome were documented it was a different story for the earlier types Kodak Verichrome, Ilford HPS, FP3, Sellochrome are sparsely documented if at all.
I suspect that the reason is that while amateur and professional photographers produced reasonable documentation on the films they used from the beginning of the web- say the mid nineties – until film stopped being a mainstream medium a decade or so later, they never documented what they never used, never bothered scanning spec sheets etc.
There is some information out there on photographic chat boards about what these few people mad enough to still do wet film processing did to successfully process and recover images from old exposed unprocessed films, but that’s as far as it goes – a lot of the basic information is simply missing – or if it’s still around is sitting dustily and ignored in some photographic society archive.
Now, in the scale of things, it’s nothing big, but just suppose we found a bag of unprocessed film cassettes containing images related to the early American or Soviet space missions, or old roll film with pictures taken during the heroic ages of archaeology and anthropology – how good a job could we do of recovering the images ?