Last year I was staying in a friend’s house – she was out all day and I got hungry, but couldn’t be bothered going to the shops. The only thing I could find that didn’t involve preparation was a tin of Heinz vegetable soup, and so into a pan it went. As the soup slowly heated, the pungent miasma that filled the kitchen should have given the game away, but it wasn’t until I tested the contents for optimum serving temperature that I realised something was horribly wrong. I’ve never sampled the liquid from the bottom of a dustbin before, but this is how I’d imagine hot bin-juice to taste. With the spoon still in my hand, I picked up the empty Heinz tin from the worktop, and holding it above my head I inspected the base… the use by date was March 1994.
There aren’t many things in life that improve after they’ve gone past their expiry or ‘use by’ date. In fact, I can’t think of anything off-hand? Is there anything with that date stamp on the side that shouldn’t be avoided at all costs? Yes, there is… film.
A few weeks ago I was given eight rolls of Lloyds Pharmacy 200 colour print film – the expiry date on the boxes are all between 2002 and 2006. I shot the images here with the first roll and, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting the results to be great. Barbara, the photographer who’d given me the film, couldn’t be sure exactly where the films had been stored, but it certainly wasn’t a refrigerator. Christian and Erica Ward at UK Film Lab were equally sceptical, “I was slightly dubious when I picked it up to scan, the negs were so thin…”, were Christian’s exact words. But we were all surprised. The ‘look’ isn’t to everyone’s taste, I realise that, but I love it.
Here are a couple of shots from that roll, made using a Nikon F100 and 50mm 1.4G lens. I think it’s fair to say that a good proportion of the quality of these images has to be attributed to the expertise and skill of the wizards at UK Film Lab.
Out of date film is available to buy, but it’s getting expensive – the only way around this is to purchase a few dozen rolls of cheap film, put it in a cupboard, and forget about it until at least 2030.
I’m now faced with the dilemma of deciding what to save the other seven very precious rolls for…