Time rolls by for film, stores

The last two camera stores that develop rolls of film in Cayman are phasing out the service

Remember the old days when you
snapped some photos, dropped the roll of film off at the camera shop and then
had a flurry of excitement and anticipation as you opened your envelope of
pictures a day later to see how they had turned out?

Would Aunt Doris have that funny
look on her face? Would your cat come out blurry? Did you put your thumb in
front of the lens again? There were no do-overs and it was too expensive to
take 20 photos of the same image just to ensure that at least one came out
looking alright.

With the advent of digital
photography, those days are fast disappearing, and here in Cayman, they’re only
going to last a few more weeks.

Only two stores currently develop
rolls of film – Island Photos and Photo Plus.

Island Photos at Fosters’ Airport
Centre will stop accepting film for development at the end of August, and Photo
Plus will stop soon thereafter.

Bobby Joseph of Island Photos said
demand for film development had dwindled to such an extent that his store would
only offer digital film services from the end of August.

“Demand is very low for film…
There are days that we only get one or no roll of film to develop,” he said.

He said that occasionally he gets
larger orders that involve developing several rolls, but those are rare.

Sometimes the rolls of film
developed are from photos snapped years ago and rediscovered by their owners.

Mr. Joseph said that film cameras
had phased out in Cayman faster than anticipated. “It was forecast that in the
Caribbean, it would be 2012 before you would see a complete transition from
film to digital, but it’s happened in Cayman earlier than expected,” he said.

Mr. Joseph said he was trying to
find a buyer overseas for his developing equipment.

Richard Marshall, who owns Photo
Plus on Walkers Road, is also phasing out the development of film in favour of
digital photos. He said his staff still develops four or five rolls of film a
day, but in the past, they would develop up to 100 or more a day.

He said it was no longer cost
effective to run the equipment, which he said can cost up to $200 a day to
replace the chemicals used to develop the photos.

The equipment is likely to end up
in the dump, he said.

“We’re not sure yet exactly when
we’ll stop developing film. We were going to do it next month, but we might
continue to do it longer in case there’s an influx,” he said, anticipating that
as people hear that the stores will stop developing film, there might be a
spike in demand as customers rush to use the last of their rolls of film.

For a while, there was a growing
demand for the development of black and white film, he said, but now people are
also taking black and white photos with digital cameras.

But, he said some people were
continuing to use non-digital cameras. “They’re still working. They won’t want
to throw them away,” he said.

Mr. Marshall said some film, if
stored correctly in a refrigerator or in a cold area, can last for years.

The owners of the photo stores said
they would continue to make prints of digital photographs for customers.

After both shops stop processing
film, the development of film will join the ranks of services that are only
available off Island.


Richard Marshall’s son Roberto demonstrates how to develop film at Photo Plus.
Photo: Norma Connolly

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