A revival of film photography is growing in the North West

A slightly metallic vinegar aroma hints at the chemical magic of the film unfolding nearby. Gutted disposable cameras fill an open cardboard box. A small bin contains the shells of opened 35mm film cartridges, a mixture of revealing turmeric yellow from Kodak and Kermit green from Fujicolor. Braids of translucent brown negatives hang from shelves like strands of kelp. Along the walls, shelves laden with white paper envelopes hold printed photos and developed negatives waiting to be picked up.

“In 2016-2017, we were probably producing 50-75 color rolls a day, maybe another 50-75 black and white a week,” says Fleenor, owner and director of Panda Lab. “I would say now we easily do about 100 color rolls a day and about 100-200 black and white rolls a week.”

A doubling of sales is remarkable for any business. Which makes the numbers remarkable in this case: ten years ago, media pundits declared that film photography was all but dead.

But, as Fleenor and others proclaim under Instagram and TikTok posts featuring analog photography: #FilmIsNotDead. “Cinema is still very much alive,” says Fleenor. And perhaps surprisingly, the comeback is largely driven by a generation of “digital natives” who have developed a love for film photography and classic cameras during the pandemic.

“It’s, like, cool [now] go out with your friends for a night and have a 35mm point-and-shoot camera rather than just your iPhone,” says Rebecca Kaplan, the manager of Glazer’s Camera, a longtime local camera and film store and a camera rental company rooted in south Lake Union. “People are really drawn to the analog aspect because our lives are so digital and so high-tech.”

About Debra D. Johnson

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