It is not so easy anymore to find a place that develops film (outside of the drugstore chains), everyone but us dinosaurs having converted to digital. Actually, I have a digital camera, but it is already obsolete. The battery fails, I can’t see the viewfinder outside in sunlight, and the color isn’t true. So I tend to fall back on my trusty Olympus point-and-shoot.
A few months ago, I tried to drop a roll of film off at the usual place, near Times Square: two Korean ladies sent out film to be developed and sold lottery tickets. But they and their store were gone—split, absconded, departed, extinct. I hadn’t even liked the Korean ladies—they insisted on taking a deposit, and chatted among themselves while waiting on me, as if I weren’t there—but now that they were gone I realized what a good deal they’d been giving me: double prints, a disk with digital images, and a free roll of film for every roll I dropped off. Of course, this last just made me keep taking pictures and held me in their thrall.
So I fell back on Walgreens, which has a branch smack in the middle of Times Square. I had to ride the escalator to the third floor and wait in line at the cash register, and when it was my turn the cashier made a phone call and then reported to me that the photo person was on break and would be back in ten minutes. I instantly morphed into crabby-middle-aged-lady mode and flounced off, the best you can when you’re a crabby middle-aged lady on the down escalator. On my way out, I tried to keep the virtual blinders on and not buy anything (did you know you can buy lunchmeat, like prepackaged bologna, in Times Square?) but succumbed to a four-pack of granola bars.
A few days later, I happened to pass a photo lab on Seventeenth Street near Union Square and left my film there. That place did a nice job, though it cost almost twice as much as the Korean ladies. There was an extra charge for the disk, and no free duplicates. Or film.
Then, last month, between trips, I left a roll of film from one trip with the folks on Seventeenth Street, and returned from the second trip to a message that my new photo lab was closed. The guy gave a phone number and said I could pick up my prints across the street from where the shop had been. I did not call back instantly, but at the first opportunity I went to where he said the prints would be and found nothing. I called the number, got transferred to a cell phone, and left a message; no one called back. Now the number is no longer forwarding calls. And I had two more rolls of film to develop.
Back in midtown, I noticed a photo lab in the vicinity of Grand Central, so I dropped my film off there earlier this week. I went back to pick up the prints the next day, and as I waited my turn I took out a twenty-dollar bill and a few singles. They had asked if I wanted double prints, and I had shrewdly asked if the second set was free, and they had even more shrewdly said no. I declined the second set, but I did ask for a disk. I knew it was going to cost more than the Korean ladies, and suspected it would cost more than the recently defunct place near Union Square, but still I was unprepared. The total was a whopping $39.50. No free film, either.
Now, I take a lot of pictures, on the principle that if you take enough pictures, some of them are bound to come out O.K. (Isn’t that one of the secrets of successful photographers?) And since I was in Amsterdam, taking full advantage of the amenities (coffee shop, garden, café; repeat), I took a lot of stupid pictures. For some reason I have a whole series of shots of gigantic eyeglasses outside optical shops. Of more than fifty exposures, only four pictures were any good, meaning that those four cost ten dollars apiece.
Anyway, here are a few of the keepers: Amsterdam, cosmos, passionflower. And a fond farewell to film.
Next: incandescent light.