Cool Film visits Take It Easy lab
It’s a Friday afternoon and I’ve just finished work and cycle into town to meet Cool Film Club head honcho Taras before popping into Leeds’s newest addition to the film community; Take it Easy.
When we first heard of Take it Easy, it was exciting, this is exactly what Leeds needed. An independent developing lab. Of course, there are places in Leeds where you can get your film developed already, and some well-established and, rightly, well-loved ones at that. But this place is different, Take It Easy’s focus is entirely on developing and scanning your film to the best quality that you, the customer, want. It’s not an all-rounder photo shop that will dust off the old developer in the corner and give you your low-res scans on a CD you can’t even use (a well-known chain gave this to me and after asking for an email instead, they said they didn’t have the internet… in 2017). And the important thing is, Take It Easy care.
It’s a nice bright day, but obviously, we’re heading inside, so with the Ilford HP5 I pushed it to 800 to give me a few more options, I’ve had great results doing this with HP5 so I’m confident with it. What I’m less confident with is Ultramax, I’ve only ever shot ultramax at box speed, and I really loved the nostalgic, 90’s esq results I got with it. Today, however I’m pushing it to 800.
Take it Easy turned one shortly after our visit, but it is something that has been in the works for nearly 10 years.
Joe – “We tried to do this like 10 years ago, when snappy snaps closed, Liam bought the developer from the bloke who was running snappy snaps. Basically, like straight after that, we tried to set some open Marshall’s mill…
Liam – It only lasted like 6 months.
Joe – …but it didn’t work. We didn’t have any of the equipment we have now, obviously, just the developer. Instagram didn’t exist, so we didn’t have a way of…
Liam – It was basically the worst time we could have done it.
Joe – Well, it was like, there was the idea of Instagram I think was around, but it hadn’t established itself as a platform or anything like that.
Liam – Yeah, we were on Vine haha.”
In that year it’s grown incredibly massively, with 20.5k followers on Instagram and a growing interest in film generally across the board, Take it Easy seem to have connected almost immediately with an audience that was seemingly waiting for them;
Joe – “I was on furlough as well though, so I didn’t have anything else to do. So, I may as well see how much time we can commit to it. See if it will become a viable source of income basically.
Liam – Yeah, and it got quite a lot of interest and then like in September when we got the first film in… when we did that and then started taking orders it was like ‘oh shit’ (laughs) this is too much to do already.”
My first roll is already in the developer and I’m pottering around the busy lab trying not to get in the way. The lab is situated just down the road from Leeds train station and is already well decorated with film memorabilia, old cameras and nostalgia as well as a healthy dose in-jokes and staff pictures. It already being quite a photogenic place, I’m focusing on candid shots of them working and angles that catch nice light or little things that show signs of use in working lab.
Liam and Joe are both humble about their success and their business going forward. Liam suggests some of their success down to their branding, but it’s clear that their customers love them because of not only the quality of the service, but also the community and care that they have built around the business, as well as connecting with other local businesses and artists. Something that they’re keen to keep doing.
Liam – “I think some of it’s the branding, it stands out. Sean (Mort) was drawing those 1920’s style little logo men with legs and I just thought that a film canister would look pretty good and yeah…”
We speak about being an independent and what that means to them, and where they might go from there.
Liam – “…we chat to other indie labs and we try and do as much as possible with other independent business
Joe – Like West Yorkshire Cameras, we’ve done competitions and worked with them, because why would you not? It’s analogue cameras they sell and we develop the film, and they’re sound guys,
Liam – It’s always better than working for somebody else. If we could just stay like this, and you can pay yourself, that’d be absolutely perfect.
Joe – We don’t wanna turn into the Tesco of film developing, it’s nice being an independent business, and I think that people trust that as well.”
As much as Take it Easy is a Leeds based business they’ve clearly resonated with people from much farther afield.
Joe – “It’s probably 20% local, but most of it is mail order, a lot of it is London… it’s more of a percentage of what we do that’s from London than is from Leeds probably. We’ve had films come from America, a lot of people from France and regulars from Germany. It’s pretty wild.”
Finishing off a roll of HP5 surprisingly quickly, I move onto the Kodak UltraMax, and because of the fact we’re inside, I decide to push it to give me a bit more flexibility when using it without a tripod. The results confirm my suspicions that UltraMax is best kept at box speed, although it’s by no means bad, the scans are most definitely thinner and leaning towards a green colour shift, as well as inevitably, more noticeable grain. Saying that, Take it Easy being such an inviting, and in an odd way almost timeless place, I feel that the nostalgic element gives the shots some character.
Next time, for pushing colour film I’ll probably stick to either Portra 400 or Fujifilm Superia (the impressive latitude of Superia can be seen in my previous article).
Before we wrap up the interview and head across the road to the pub, we chat about a tricky topic in the film world, the environment. It’s no secret that film photography is by no means the most environmentally friendly way of taking photographs, but just like vinyl records and the travel industry, so it is important to think about how we approach these issues, and what is possible to be done while still enjoying our favourite hobbies.
Joe – “The chemical waste that we produce gets taken away by somebody who extracts anything that’s reusable in it, and then extracts the silver content in it… with plastic waste, we’re looking for places that can recycle them.
Liam – We’re selling them (the plastic film containers) to people who want to reuse them, and then any money that’s made on that gets given to MAP charity. We keep them all, none of them go in the bin.”
We finish the interview and head across the road to Brew Society to have a few beers together and chat about mutual friends and old workplaces. Film brings us all together eh?