What was your first camera? Mine wasn’t the one pictured above, but it was close: A Kodak Instamatic X-15 like the one pictured below.
This camera was manufactured between 1970 and 1976. I got mine toward the end of that period, when I would have been 8 or 9 years old. But mine is somewhere in a box, in storage, where it has been since before I started collecting vintage camera or developing “found film”. So I was pretty excited when I saw the listing on eBay for a Kodak X-15 with a roll of film still inside! (photo above is an example for illustration purposes, not the actual roll!) I haven’t had much luck developing film from 126 cartridges of this type found in the instamatics. I’m always careful to gently bend the cartridge back and forth until I can access the film in the dark, but usually it comes out completely blank. I was starting to assume it was somehow an inferior film, but I think it has more to do with how such inexpensive cameras may have been stored, in comparison to some of the more expensive cameras that have held secrets on a roll of forgotten film left inside. But I wasn’t sure whether I should try and develop the roll in color, or just use black and white chemicals, which is more likely to yield images even after the less durable color dyes have faded. So I was pretty excited when the I pulled the roll out of the developing tank and saw what appeared to be sharp color images on the roll! I’m not sure where this barn was being built, but somebody wanted to document it:
In addition, there were a couple of other pictures of a house, and this couple. From their clothing style, it doesn’t look like the film roll was all that old, which explains why the colors turned out pretty well. Were they visiting a cemetery? That may be a grave in the background on the portrait, which would explain the flower bouquet maybe?
Only the final photo gives much of a clue as to the origin of the roll. The van on the left appears to have “Merrimack Valley Baptist Church” painted on the side. This church is located in Merrimack, New Hampshire. According to the church’s website, they send missionaries all over the world, but I’m guessing the van would not have strayed far, and the vegetation looks like it could be in New Hampshire. Maybe the happy family will stumble across this blog post someday and discover the photo they had taken but never developed!
But the cool thing about this roll is that it was only on exposure #12 when it arrived. Which meant that there were 12 exposures left! So before I developed the roll, I walked around my neighborhood in Chennai, India, and snapped the rest. I had to finish and develop the roll before the packers arrived to load up all of our stuff and take it away from India, so it wasn’t really the most amazing pictures ever. Plus I doubted they would come out anyway, given my past experience with 126 film.
Above is a little difficult to make out, but people have left pictures of Hindu gods at the base of a particularly large tree. Not sure what kind of tree – maybe I should have asked. Along the wall below are political advertisements.
Unfortunately with the small aperture of the Instamatic (to maximize having everything in focus) there needs to be a lot of light. So on a hazy Chennai day, even standing under an overhang can result in insufficient lighting. And flash cubes are hard to come by these days.
And that pretty much rounds out this roll of found / expired film – half taken near Merrimack, New Hampshire, and half taken years later in Chennai, India. If you have an old Instamatic laying around and would like to try and take pictures with it, they haven’t made the film cartridges since 2008. A few expired rolls can still be gotten, but you have to process them yourself. If you’d like to try and load a used cartridge with ordinary 35mm film, that is also possible – try this tutorial or this tutorial.