Found Film

Posted 2011.07.13 18.20 in Hobbies, Photography by Stephanie

I’ve read about this in the past – someone buys an old camera and finds a roll of film still in it. Or you find some film in the attic. Or at the back of a drawer in some old furniture. However you come by it, the common traits are that the film is exposed or partially-exposed, you don’t know when or by whom.

While I’ve acquired a number of old cameras, I’ve never been lucky enough to score any found film. It seems exciting to me – what shots might be there, how long ago were they taken, what happened to the people in them, or the person that took them… Not to mention, why were they never processed, how did the roll get forgotten or lost…

There’s also a bit of voyerism I think too – it could be a brief window into someone else’s life. Literally, a snapshot from a moment in time that a stranger thought was important enough to capture on film.

So I finally got my hands on a couple rolls of found film. Still haven’t had any lucky surprises in old cameras, but other people have those sort of surprises and aren’t interested in trying to process it. The rolls are both black & white 620 roll film. The 620 format was around from 1932 to 1995. It’s basically the same film size as 120 format, but wound onto a smaller spool.

The first roll was labeled as Kodak Verichrome Pan. I did some research to get a feel for how to process it, then I went ahead and winged it. Here are the results:

The first frame was partially blown out which may have happened when the film was loaded in the camera. The fourth frame was completely blown out / overexposed. At the end of the roll, it looks like someone opened the back of the camera while the film was still in it as frames 11 and 12 were blown out, and frame 10 was half-blown. However, I was able to get 7 complete images and 2 partials — not bad for my first experience.

So who are these people? Where were these shots taken? When was this? No idea. But it was fun to develop and exciting to remove the film from the tank and see there were images on there!

I have a second roll of found film, that I’ll process in a few days or so.

Edited to add: Developing details – Presoaked for 10 minutes then developed for 10:30 in T-Max 4:1 at about 77 degrees F.


  1. Eric says:

    I had some Found Film. In my dad’s old Pentax from when I was but 6 or 8. Since it was color film and I had only ever developed b&w, I decided to have it processed at the only place that still had a wet developing lab — Walmart.

    Sadly, what I got back was an “I’m so sorry, I loaded your film wrong and it got jammed”. Every frame over developed with only silhouettes I could barely identify, including my first pet dog. 🙁

    I do regularly come across Found Film at thrift stores, flea markets, yard sales, and auctions. Even recently.

    1. Stephanie says:

      Thanks for the comment Eric!

      Sorry to hear the film came back no good. I don’t have anywhere around here that does film. I could mail it out but I’m too impatient and cheap, so I didn’t shoot colour until I could process the negs myself. And at least this way if it gets messed up, at least I have noone else to blame for it.

      That’s great that you come across found film so often – I need to get out more! 🙂

      1. Eric says:

        Interesting thing. I read your post about the 110 camera you picked up, and so I find one (non-SLR) at a yard sale yesterday. And of course it contains a cartridge with 15 exposures on it already. I tell you: found-film is everywhere. 😀

        1. Stephanie says:

          Neat, are you going to have a go at developing it? The nice thing with the 110 (and 126) cartridges is even if someone has opened the camera, at most only one frame would be light-struck. The rest will be protected inside the cartridge.

          I picked up a $5 camera at the local Goodwill for no reason other than it had film in it… only got 3 images out of it but it was still a fun ‘discovery’ process.

  2. Lezley says:

    Where are you finding your found film?

    I’d also like to complain that the last time I came here was not very long ago and I wasn’t this far behind.


    1. Stephanie says:

      I found these two on that certain auction site. I’ve yet to actually find some found film in an old camera or drawer or whatever – although I read about other people being so lucky.

Leave a Comment