My first time developing found film

I have a fascination with found film and the mystery surrounding their previous owner. I have read about others who found old rolls of film in analogue cameras and developed them to find pictures of peoples and places from a different time and I hoped that one day I could do the same.

So I couldn’t contain my excitement when I found an old roll of Kodak Tri-X Pan in a Zeiss Ikon Nettar 515 I purchased from a local second hand store. Who could have owned this camera before me? Maybe a photojournalist from years gone by? Or maybe just an amateur photographer like myself. I don’t know how old this roll is and I haven’t been able to find any information either on the backing paper or on the internet.

Four frames had already been exposed and, sadly, I had exposed the fourth frame multiple times at the store when testing the camera’s shutter. At least it teached me that in the future to check the camera for remaining film before firing its shutter. The roll still had several frames left so I decided to finish the work that the previous owner had started. On Saturday the 18th of October 2020, the day after I bought the camera, the roll was finally finished.

It would take me until Sunday the 1st of November 2020 until I felt confident enough to try and develop it. I had decided to use Ilford ID-11 at 1+1 dilution as my developer. Rating the film at EI 400 gave me a developing time of 10 minutes and I would be agitating for the first 10 seconds, then for 10 seconds every minute. My reasoning behind these decisions are that the original frames were probably shot at box speed (ISO 400) and by developing for that I would save them from potential overdevelopment. As for the chosen developer, that is what I had at hand even though I am aware that most people use Kodak HC-110 for these kinds of tasks. I am also aware of the increase-by-one-stop-of-light-per-decade rule for expired film but I just didn’t want to jeopardize the existing frames.

After fighting with the film in my dark bag for what seemed like half an hour I managed to get it on to the development reel and into the tank. The development went smoothly and with nervous anticipation I took the film off the reel. Relief! The old exposures seemed to have fared well but I won’t know for sure before I scan them. The same couldn’t be said about my own exposures as they seemed to be underexposed even though I rated them as EI 100 when shooting. But it didn’t matter as they were not important. One thing I discovered after developing was that there were only three exposed frames from the previous owner and not four as I had previously thought.

As I do not own the equipment to scan medium format film I had to turn them in to a local lab. I talked with the lab attendant about the negatives and hopefully they will manage to get some decent scans from them. Because of the film’s old age it can be harder than normal to get decent results.

A couple of days passed and the scans arrived in my inbox. So, here they are.

Taken by an unknown photographer
Taken by an unknown photographer
Taken by an unknown photographer

Looking at the girls clothes and bicycles I believe that these were taken somewhere in Sweden during the 1970s. The third frame is in such a poor state that I can only make out an older man under what looks like a sail or tarp. I think this frame was taken by accident by the person portrayed. I wonder, what happened to these people? And where are they now? I will probably never find the answer to these questions.

I have now finished what was started long ago and turned these abandoned photographs into memories once more.

By Skoge Farman

I am a street photographer based north of Stockholm.

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