Expired Film - The Tool of My "Trade"
3 Oct 2007
Let me start off by saying that I am not a film snob. Digital certainly has its place in photography today. I can't imagine photographing a family event, let alone a wedding, using film. I would be lost in these situations without my DSLR. But when I use a digital camera, I am an entirely different photographer. Snap! Snap! Snap! Check the LCD, make adjustments. Snap! Snap! Snap! I feel more like a machine than an artist.
When I am photographing for fun/art, there is nothing better than shooting with expired film. Like Forest Gump's box of chocolates, you never quite know what you're going to get. Sometimes the colors are off, sometimes the contrast is very high or almost non-existent, and sometimes nothing develops. It really all depends on how the film's prior owner handled it. Sure, I sorta know what to expect based on the type of film I am using, but I am constantly being surprised by the results of each individual roll.
How do I get my hands on all this expired film? Four sources. Primarily eBay. Since the shift to digital photography, many professional photographers are selling off whatever left over films they have laying around. Usually you can tell on eBay if it is a professional photographer selling. These films are well cared for and I have never had a roll of film produce nothing when I have bought from a professional photographer on eBay. Also on eBay are rolls being sold by the "new marketers" as I like to call them. These brave souls use eBay as their own big yard sale. They go to garage sales, store closings, clearance racks, etc. and buy expired film in bulk. If I only had the time to scour the earth for expired film, I would join them and save a few bucks. Film bought from these folks tends to be less dependable. It will usually still work, but there is much more experimentation going on.
Secondarily, there are other web sites that sell expired film lomography.com immediately springs to mind because they cater to the plastic camera crowd. Even the big names like bhphotovideo.com and adorama.com often sell off their expired film. My third source is actually going to film shops and checking if they have any cheap expired film. One of the chief reasons to use expired film is to buy film cheap. Film that recently expired is going to work. I doubt you will be able to tell the difference. These films are great to try different processing methods like cross processing without spending full price on a roll of film. The last way I get my hands on this old film is by word of mouth. Everyone knows my girlfriend and I love old films. Often we will get handed old cameras and film that our friends found while cleaning their attics. These are the most fun to experiment with!
My creative process is about experimentation in displaying everyday scenes in an imaginative light. It is of utmost importance for an artist to have his or her own style. My style was born out of my love of the look of expired films and cross processing. Buy a Holga if you don't already have a medium format camera. Pick up some expired 120 film. Have fun with photography again! Who knows, you may even create your own style.