The Mystery of the Antique Camera Film (2016 edition)

I know, I know, I know… Every so often I’ll inherit or find an old film camera, and inside the camera might be a roll or a cartridge of exposed-yet-non-developed film.

And I keep thinking to myself, “I might be able to get this film developed and maybe find out the story of the people who took the pictures.  That would be cool.”

But reality has always interfered with my fantasy.  The film has degraded to the point where it’s undevelopable.  Or the film itself has deteriorated.  Or the photo lab I ask to develop the film simply takes my money and does nothing in return.  (Six years, Rocky Mountain Film Lab, six years I’ve been waiting…)

Last week, I won an eBay auction for some old film, and the seller included an old AGFAmatic Instamatic camera in the shipping box.  Okay, that’s nice, old ugly Instamatic camera – hey wait, is there – hokey smokes, there’s a roll of film inside the camera?

I quickly checked the film cartridge.  It can be developed in C-41 chemicals.  That’s the same chemicals that can develop modern print film.

Ah, what the hell.  I’ll add it to my next development run at McGreevy Pro Lab.  What’s the worst that can happen?  It’s not like I’m expecting to find a miracle any more.  I guess if the film has any images, then maybe I can use the camera for something else, since I know that it has to at least work.

Yesterday, I received my print order from McGreevy Pro Lab.  They were able to find discernable images on the film.  Okay.  Discernable images.  I can work with that.

Unfortunately, when I got the film back from McGreevy, I discovered that “discernable” isn’t the same as “crisp, clear, competition-worthy” photos.  Trust me, McGreevy did everything they could, but when you’re working with film that is old enough to run for President…

Wait.  There’s one image on this roll.  I can sort of make it out.

Okay.  Get the scanner ready.

And sure enough, I was able to pull one image.

Here it is.

saratogaI don’t know when this photo was taken, no idea at all.  The color on this picture is grainy and shifting, and if I were to even hazard a guess, I would say this might have been taken somewhere between the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.

There’s definitely a tonal shift in the color.  And the film itself had a very nasty curl, almost as if it was trapped in a cartridge for 30 years and only recently made it to the outside world.

Wait a second… something familiar about that photo…

Guys and gals… correct me if I’m totally off base…

But isn’t that one of the metal friezes at Saratoga Race Course?

You know what… I think it is!!

So if we were to do a little historical profiling… we could say that the camera’s previous owner once made a trip to the flat track… took a few photos of things here and there … and eventually was intrigued enough by the iron scrollwork along the grandstand, that he or she felt that one of the 24 images available on their camera was worth capturing for all time.

A Kodak moment, if you will.

Okay, it’s not a breathtaking story of a family journey, or the last photos of a long-departed relative…

But hey, it looks as if the previous owner of this camera appreciated the sport of kings.

And maybe I didn’t get the big win of finding something super-rare and image-swank…

But at least I know more about this little point-and-shoot camera’s journey.

And that’s kinda inspiring, in and of itself.