Thursday, August 2, 2018

When Film goes Bad

Former Edwards High School gymnasium, Magnolia Street, Edwards, Mississippi
I finally used the last of my stock of long-frozen Kodak Ektar 25 color negative film. It was quirky and a bit hard to use, but had a unique color palette. As a test, I bought two rolls from a fellow on eBay who claimed they had been refrigerated. I tried one of the rolls and it was fine. Then I bought two more rolls from another seller who honestly said he did not know the storage conditions. Many of these expired films come from estate sales, where a buyer opens an old camera bag and finds film. This time the film was clearly ruined. Of a roll of 12 exposures from my Rolleiflex 3.5E, most were grossly underexposed, and I could only extract 5 frames. I used an exposure index (EI) of 12, but possibly if I tried EI 4 or 6, I might have saved a couple more frames. Regardless, I discarded the other roll. Really, it does not make sense to buy expired color film stock unless the seller can guarantee it has been frozen. Black and white is more forgiving because, of course, you do not have a color shift.
Crossroads store, Old Port Gibson Road, Reganton, Mississippi
The venerable Crossroads Store in Reganton, on Old Port Gibson Road, has been in business for a century. It is an example of the type of country store that once served farmers and workers who did not have access to a car in an era before strip malls and supermarkets. The day I took this picture, the store was hosting a crawfish boil, and everyone was having a good time.
Unoccupied house on Old Port Gibson Road, Reganton, Mississippi
Templeton Grocery, Jack Road, Hazelhurst, Mississippi
Templeton Grocery, Jack Road, Hazelhurst, Mississippi


The old Templeton Grocery at the intersection of Jack and Dentville Roads, northwest of Hazelhurst, is another example of an old neighborhood country store. This one was sheathed with asphalt shingles. These were similar to roof tiles and were equally durable, and were often made to resemble bricks or stone. Asphalt sheathing was popular mid-20th century but now is typically associated with low-income neighborhoods or old industrial or mill towns in the northeast.
Shack-Up Inn, Clarksdale, Mississippi
Finally, we have a frame from the Shack-up Inn in Clarksdale. This is a Blues-oriented inn where the guests stay in old farm silos or shotgun shacks. I had tried a roll of Ektar 25 from an eBay vendor who claimed the film had been frozen. Most frames turned out all right, but some clearly showed that the film had aged. Too many years have gone by since Ektar 25 was produced. Sadly, it is time to move on if I want to continue to use medium format color negative film.

Photographs taken with a medium format Rolleiflex 3.5E twin-lens reflex camera with a 75mm f/3.5 Schneider Xenotar lens. All frames tripod-mounted. I scanned the film with a Minolta Scan Multi film scanner at 2820 dpi.

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