I am a member of an analog photography Facebook group and some time ago a person by the name of David contacted me and asked if I wanted to help him develop some old exposed rolls of film from the 1960s – 1970s. He had purchased the rolls via an auction with the backstory that they came from an old photo studio!
I said sure, asked him some questions, and asked him to send me more info on the rolls themself so that I can research if, and how, I would develop them.
Sometime later when he had received the package and sent me some close up shots of the rolls, this enabled me to tell him what I needed to do the job and more importantly to set the expectations of what to expect from what is probably 60+ year old film!
He agreed to the terms and some time later sent me a package with what I needed for the work!
The rolls ranged from C22 colour negative, black and white films, and a couple of c41 rolls, this meant that I had to think about what developer and development times!
Thankfully I had agreed with David to develop all of the rolls in d76 black and white stock developers for the best possible chance to survive the harshness of time!
There is no practical way of developing the extinct c22 method as the process is different from the modern c41. Yes I could probably have hacked the c41 method somehow via temperature or by probably adding some extra step but that is a huge hassle and a greater risk.
When it came to development times I went with 12 minutes, this enabled me to give the film a great chance to give me some results. It also enabled me to develop many rolls at the time which not only saved me time but also my sanity!
Really old rolls don’t behave like fresh film, something I saw – especially with one roll – was the gelatin just washed of just by me handling the developed roll.
There are also risks of the film cracking up as it has spent so many years rolled up so I made sure to prewash all of the films before developing them in order to let the film soften up and become more handling-friendly.
Other than being careful when loading the films in the reels I had no problems, despite the old age of the films.
The development was easy and fun thanks to using standard black and white developers so no special heating up of the chemicals or babysitting the temperature of the water!
As I also develop films for a friend I know how annoying and tedious it can be to develop many rolls of films so I made sure to make the process as effective as possible by using two Paterson tanks, loading two 120 films in on reel which effectively meant that I developed four rolls at the time. For the last four rolls, I even used a third Paterson tank just to make sure I use my time in the best possible way.
All of the films got 12 minutes of strong d76 stock developer. This turned out to be a good time as even I got some usable frames from the old c22 rolls!
Hopes and expectations
So how did it go? Well I got a good ratio of usable frames from the black and white films, the c22 rolls didn’t do too well unfortunately but I did get some good frames and the c41 rolls gave me nothing.
Is this good? YES and more YES!
As I told David, “don’t expect any miracles”, and in the end, there are some really nice frames that now get to be seen all of these years later! As a bonus, I get to experience the nice backing paper and old-style reels used in the past!
Here are some scans from selected frames
Just about any really old roll of films can be successfully developed, just make sure to set your expectations correctly, and don’t expect miracles!
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