Film Labs disappearing



Years ago I use to run a Professional E-6 film processing lab in Chester UK. We processed C-41 to and printed RA4 and R3 reversal prints. I was the manager for about 10 years, we use to process for almost every pro in the area, providing anything from a 1 to 2 hour turnaround on most of the rolls. I hate to think of just how many rolls and sheets of film passed through the chemistry in that time. The rug was pulled from under me by the owners of the company (Chester's largest Ad agency) in July 2002, though the lab remained open till the beginning of October, they'd lost a major client (about five million pounds worth of turnover) and because of the fall in film processing due to the fast take up of digital in the area, they decided the lab had to go. I used the picture above as the notice to clients that the lab was closing, it was taken on a Toyo 5x4 view camera with a Schneider Symmar-S f5.6 150 mm lens, Fuji Provia F 5x4 film in a local Victorian Cemetery on a very cold frost morning it was digitally scanned and then heavily played with in photoshop. I wanted something that conveyed how I felt about the closure and the real reason why the lab was closing, digital. I didn't hate digital imaging, in fact we were was using scanning backs for copy shot work, printing digital prints on an early 44 inch HP ink-jet printer but the missing ingredient was a decent scanner, the company wouldn't stump up the money for a high quality scanner for the lab. They bought one for the art studio in their Advertising Agency, though the rep who sold them it must have been laughing all the way to the bank as it was a pretty poor unit for the price they paid for it, with output resolution well below the standard of the time. So the lab had no way of linking film processing to digital printing and as such we alienated a good portion of our clients. Ho hum, death of a lab, now it's so difficult to get E-6 film processed, almost everywhere I know of has gone. The writing is on the wall for film, they may keep producing it but if you can't get it processed....
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