Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Expired" Expired Film

I like to experiment with expired film, as evidenced in my previous posts, but sometimes expired film is just...dead. This was a roll of Kodak Plus-X 127 film, expired October 1953, shot through a Brownie Holiday at Zion National Park. I can see very faint images when I hold the film to a light. The edge of a frame, the shadow of a tree...but much too faint for even a scanner to pick up properly. And I've scanned some pretty faded negatives.

So what have a learned from using expired film? Number one: if you are shooting for a day, a few hours, whatever, don't rely on the expired film. I always shoot with multiple cameras, and I make sure I have non-expired film (or at least no older than 10 years). I would hate to make an effort to drive someplace cool, shoot five expired rolls, and find out I got absolutely nothing from of the experience. For me, expired film is kind of like icing on the cake. I go out with an idea of what I want to shoot with my cameras, and I take a roll or two of expired along and just shoot here and there when I think it might be interesting. I rely on my regular film and hope for the best with my expired. Sometimes the icing is nasty and makes your stomach hurt...other times it's the best thing you've ever had and you have some sort of icing orgasm. Or something. Bad analogy, but at least I got to use the word orgasm in my blog. Anyway, toy cameras are often unpredictable, and expired film makes them doubly unpredictable. But that, for me, is also part of the fun. And even the 'non-photos' that result are sometimes beautiful, with a somewhat minimalist painting quality. I could see one of these at six feet across.
One final tip when using expired film: lots of contrast. The greater the difference between your blacks and whites, the greater the chance of getting a usable image. Sometimes you just get the perfect shots regardless of lighting conditions (at least as far as a toy camera will tolerate), but you want to try to shoot with the worst possible results in mind. You can't hurt good film with contrast, so it's the best way to go about it. Don't let the above images scare you! Photography is about having fun. If you take it too seriously and it becomes work, then it's just work. I like to say the reason they call it work is because someone has to pay you to do it. If you can get payed to take photos, great. But it should still be about adventure and experimention. Anyway, I'll shut up, because I can see your eyes glazing over!


  1. Anonymous6:56 PM

    i dig these. they stand on their own, definately. i hope that soviet roll ends up in your filmy hands ~ i refrained when i saw your name; besides, i just scored some old films in a box of plastic goodies..talk about(and i'll use) orgasm(in your comments field)!

  2. Anonymous6:23 AM

    Dead film? Where? I din´t see any!! When I saw the photos I liked them a lot and you made a connection to minimalism which popped into my mind immediately as well.

    For your earlier post on Sept 2 I was going to say I loved the first photo: the colors, the theme, the suitcase and the dress. How did she find it? Love the style of the dress and the print on the fabric. The light adding to the feeling in the photo...

    Oh, yes orgasms from seeing photos. I got one photo on my last film that I got really excited about. And as a joke I started wondering if I should call it masturbating when it´s my own photo and orgasm if it´s someone elses photo I´m getting excited about? Ha ha haa!! But seriously if I should ever choose between sex and photography I believe photography would win...maybe it would be my husband soon standing there at the door with the suitcase...

  3. Anonymous10:43 AM

    I'm a reporter for a newspaper in Allentown, PA and I do a column on interesting blogs. I'd like to interview you about this one. Can you please contact me to let me know if you'd be willing to do an interview? My email is:

  4. Anonymous4:44 AM

    what a pity there's not even the faintest silhouette on the photos - i bet those would have looked breathtaking. i really like the pattern of the expired film, though ;) i think that you could definitely count them as photographs, just as well.

  5. Anonymous1:07 PM

    hi, i'm wondering if its the same (regards to expired film) with kodak advantix?
    i usually use polaroid land cameras, lomos, holgas, sx-70's, etc so i'm not familiar with the more recent kinds of film... you look like you know a lot about film &things, and i just today found a pack of expired (2003) advantix film, do you think it would have any results, worth shooting?

    thanks so much,

  6. jessica if you're still out there, I'm still interested! Just don't seem to get all my comments emailed to me.