How passion for film photography led to the creation of SilverPan Film Lab – an interview with the founder

Should we agree that 2018 so far has been a good year for film photography? Unfortunately, companies like Fujifilm or Agfa had some bad news for most of us by discontinuing great film products. However, focusing on negative has not been driving the wonderful film community. If you have ever come to any of the analogue photo walks in your area or just got into discussions with other film photographers on social media, you might have noticed the kindness of all film photographers (obviously it is hard to speak for everyone).

SilverPan Film Lab Interview

The love for analogue photography is something special that unites everyone who willingly puts their hands on a film camera. No matter what kind of a photographer you are and whether you call yourself a photographer or a film enthusiast or anything else, you will always feel welcome to be a part of a truly extraordinary and honest community.

It is great that some folks interested in film photography are embarking on their journeys to help other photographers. Some help you discover new film products or share their knowledge online, while others take the responsibility of developing and scanning your film.

Meet the founder of SilverPan Film Lab

Duncan SilverPan Film LabIt is a pleasure to introduce you to Duncan Gammon who recently started SIlverPan Film Lab. Coming across this lab was a pleasant surprise while casually browsing through photos on Instagram. After exchanging a few lines with Duncan and a bit of time, it was clear that Cool Film found a trusted partner lab. To get to know the man behind SilverPan Film Lab, Duncan agreed to answer a few questions about the lab and his personal photographic experience.

“I love the process of developing and scanning, tailoring the results to each film…”

Why did you decide to start the film lab?
It has always been an idea in the back of my mind, and now It just felt like the right time to do this. I’ve been shooting and developing film for the best part of 20 years, and witnessed the decline in the early 2000’s and subsequent re-birth of enthusiasm for the medium (akin to the renewed interest in vinyl records).

The industry is starting to rescale to smaller and more niche products such as the Ferrania project, and I felt that similarly, a new small-scale lab was viable that didn’t have to function like a traditional commercial lab, who’s machines are reliant on a vast amount of daily film throughput in order to keep the chemistry in spec.

I love the process of developing and scanning, tailoring the results to each film, and wanted to offer this to others who don’t want to develop film themselves, whether they are just starting out, or experienced professional photographers.

Where to develop your film is not a question anymore

You are very passionate about what you do. It is worth saying that simply knowing where to develop film is not an issue these days. However, finding the lab that would achieve desirable results is important to a lot of film photographers. What do you think that makes SilverPan FIlm Lab different to other labs?

Because we are small scale, each film we receive is developed separately and treated to individual attention. For this, we use a hand-made custom film processing machine called The Filmomat which is an amazing piece of kit. We can accommodate almost any process: colour negative, colour slide, cinefilm (such as Vision 500T), and black & white in a wide variety of different developers.

We take the same approach to our scanning, which is all done by hand on the old but unbeatable Imacon/Hasselblad Flextight scanner. This machine offers near drum-scan quality, and we use it for all our scans. Other labs offer scans of an individual frame on this machine for the price we offer a whole roll!

Nothing is on auto, and each frame is checked and processed by myself. It’s a time-consuming, labour-intensive method, but I think that the results are definitely worth it.

“There is a real magic involved when you pull your first developed film from the reel.”

What formats is your film lab able to process at the moment?
At the moment we can process 35mm / 120 / 127 and 126 (if you have any lying around!). In addition, we can also scan 4×5 large format.

Are there any formats that you plan to start developing in the nearest future?
There is a 4×5 large format add-on for the Filmomat, and I would like to offer that soon if there is interest. Similarly with 110 film back on sale, I am looking into acquiring the necessary parts to run that on the machine and scan on the Flextight if the demand is there.

Is it worth processing film at home?
Yes absolutely, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from giving it a go, especially black & white. There is a real magic involved when you pull your first developed film from the reel and see your negatives. In fact, I still get a little tinge if excitement even now each time.

Personal film journey

What is your photographic style? What do you shoot mostly?
I’m not sure my photography is interesting enough to qualify as having a uniquely identifiable style 🙂 I love documenting life around me, candids or portraits of family and friends with a sense of humour, everyday life.

Portrait photo shot on Fuji Sensia 100
Shot on Pentax K1000. Fuji Sensia 100

I love live music and play keyboards in a prog-rock band called Schnauser. I enjoy getting into the crowd to shoot some black & white.

Gig on Black and White
Shot on Bronica ETRSi, Ilford Delta 3200

But then I also love nature and have recently been shooting quite a lot of macro at our local nature reserve, wild flowers, insects etc.

Macro Snail
Shot on Minolta X700, Kodak Portra 160
Macro Butterfly shot on Film Ferrania P30
Shot on Minolta X700, Ferrania P30

“You don’t really need a super expensive fast lens for most low light or gig photography.”

What is your favourite film?
For colour, I prefer the pastel tones. I’m a big fan of Kodak Portra 160 in colour negative and Fuji Provia 100F in slide film. Ilford can do no wrong in black & white, all their films are excellent, I’m particularly fond of the silky tones of Delta 100 and HP5 is fantastic pushed to 1600 for gigs.

That’s more than one favourite isn’t it… I’m basically interested in trying every film out there 😉

A tip on shooting film in low light

I assume you push film in processing? Could you give a few tips on shooting concerts or generally at night and in low light conditions?
You don’t really need a super expensive fast lens for most low light or gig photography, those big spotlights should easily get you in the region of 1/30 at f/2.8 using HP5 pushed or one of the 3200 speed films. Your shadows will drop off, and you will have high contrast, but personally, I think this works well for concerts. At 1/30 with a steady hand, you can freeze the action during less frenzied moments on stage, or get some great atmospheric blurring when things are more manic.

Cool Film partners with SilverPan

It is a pleasure to announce that SilverPan Film Lab is a partner of Cool Film. From now all of our subscribers get a 10% discount on all services provided by the lab. Just look out for a card with the code that can be redeemed on the lab’s website. You are welcome to join the club. Receive two mystery rolls of 35mm film every month by joining Cool Film. Discover available memberships.