Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Agfacolor 80S: Baby Got an Atom Bomb

Old film is like a box of chocolates. A cheap, thoughtless, perfunctory gift that nobody ever asks for. A box of chocolates way beyond its sell-by date. Does chocolate go off? Well, apparently it does, but slowly because chocolate doesn't have very much water in it.

Film however does go off, thus the subject of this post. I took my Yashica Mat off to Como, and because I like to live dangerously I also took along part of a borgasmord of random film plucked from history thus:

eBay throws up occasional fascinating batches of junk from the past. Motor cars, handle bars, bicycles for two. Less so now, because eBay is increasingly aimed at small businesses rather than ordinary people.

The black and white film was fine. Black and white film ages well. I didn't take the Fuji 400. The mysterious "VCS 120" - a black and white film - also worked. The Kodak Ektachrome 200 was very faint. I haven't tried the Fujicolor. The subject of this post is the Agfacolor 80S, which must have been left on top of a television for ten years. Or something.

It has a bizarre, disgusting grain pattern, which has the effect of making the JPG files enormous:

At least, I assume it's a grain pattern. It could be maggots, or perhaps the film became very dry and cracked. Static electricity? I hate to think it was maggots. Establishing consistent colour balance with such unpromising raw material is tricky and in the end I didn't bother. Presumably light slowly seeped into the edges of the roll, tainting it.

Imagine a baby's crib just crawling with maggots. And as you look harder you see that there's a baby in there, his arms flailing at the sunshine as the maggots suffocate him. When they conduct the post-mortem they will dump a bag of maggots out of its lungs, it will be horrible. Eight of the twelve shots could be salvaged, and I have no idea how to replicate the effect, short of perhaps shining a torch into the edge of some print film. Which is an idea, though. The effect looks like an instagram filter, which is unfortunate because... well, people will assume I cheated my way to unique brilliance, instead of fluking my way.