The Best Li’l Photo Lab In The World: Photosmith aka Old School Film Lab (Part 2)


A few weeks ago Lomo friends @metaluna and @lorrainehealy decided to join forces and write an article about their favorite film lab and the people they entrust with their most precious and beloved rolls. There are not many small independents like this one left, but they hope all Lomographers will always celebrate these film labs filled with fellow photographers, people who know what they are doing, who feel honored that you trust them with what you create. If, on top of all of that, they also happen to possess a wicked sense of humor, make sure you keep them in business forever!

[Editor's note: Read the first part of this story here.]

Steve Frank, owner of small, independent film lab Photosmith~Old School Film Lab, holding lab mascot Poppers McStopBath. Poppers was named by customers through a contest and is the one responsible for the tons of candy the lab receives with all of our orders. Gotta keep Poppers fed! (Kodak Elitechrome 100, cross processed.)
35mm film, color, slide, and black & white developed and stretching, waiting to be scanned at the Old School Film Lab. Lomography Color Negative Film F²/400.

@metaluna writes: I got back into film photography in 2011 when I received an LC-A+ for Christmas. I was hooked again after 25 years of not shooting a single frame. I dug out my old Pentax K1000 from the attic and I was off and running. Stop! Where the hell would I get my film developed? I tried our local Rite Aid Pharmacy, but they could not do black and white and they had no clue when I asked for cross process. I turned to my desktop and did a search of film processing labs. I found Photosmith, located just a short drive from my home. They knew all the terms I was learning about at Lomography and were able to develop anything that I brought them. Fast forward to 2017: I now own 50 analogue cameras and Photosmith has developed thousands of shots for me. Steve and the Lab Rats are my go-to people for anything photographic. Lomo on.

@lorrainehealy writes: Last year, like I do every year, I entered Jennifer Hendrickson’s HolgaWeek contest, a yearly celebration of the funky Holga where you submit some shots taken during that HolgaWeek (usually the 3rd week of July) and then, once everyone has posted, you spend a few hours going through all the entries going: “Aaaah… neat!” And maybe even noting what film somebody used to get a really fabulous image. Lo and behold, after HolgaWeek 2016, I got an email from HolgaJen stating that I had received an honorable mention and it came with a prize of 4-for-the-price-of-2 development at Old Film Lab School, and to go ahead and contact them to arrange to “collect” my prize. I contacted them, got a hilarious but oh so warm response from owner Steve Frank, and we have been bantering cross-country ever since. Then I discovered the lab’s account on Instagram, where some creatures called the “lab rats” posted images of the rolls of film we customers sent in, surrounded by piles and piles of candy from all over the world. And Poppers. Read on.

All done: a box for the empty 35mm cartridges, a box for the disposable cameras. Lomography Color Negative Film F²/400.

Last week, I interviewed Steve about how he had come to own a small independent film-processing lab and what the challenges had been when it was time to move to the hybrid era. This week, I ask him about his young employees, the “lab rats,” who seem to do everything from developing, scanning, printing, running the office side of the business, uploading their favorite images from customers on the lab’s IG account. This arrangement leaves Steve with plenty of time to dance with the walk-in customers, apparently one of his favorite things!

Photosmith’s “lab rats” Rachel, Becky, and Jenny checking on orders while owner Steve Frank is at one of the computers. Rollei RPX.

Your young "lab rats", as they are universally and affectionately known, are extremely talented analog photographers in their own right. Can you introduce us to them?

This is one of the best parts of the lab's story. It has brought into my life so many great and talented people over the decades. The "lab rats" are Jennie, Becky, Taryn, Rachel, and Laz. Rachel and Laz are the most well known to our social media followers and they are responsible for not only much of the day to day work but also our social media presence interactions. They are both talented photographers and embrace film photography in every way, shape, and form. I'm more than slightly thrilled with having such a great crew. Everyone works hard here, to do things right and offer amazing customer service… and we have a very fun time doing it! They all truly love photos, film, and film photography. Everyone who works here was a customer before and I've never regretted begging any of them to come to work with me. What is so important to me is that they care as much as I do... They get it when it comes to how sensitive and important this whole process is. Photography is about memories, making those images materialize, and making customers happy. The whole process is as close to magic as I can imagine.

Clockwise from top left: Jenny with a developed roll of film (120 Arista Edu Ultra); Laz and drying and stretching rolls of film (Lomography Color Negative Film F²/400); Rachel mid-magic curtain (120 Rollei RPX); Becky looking like she is delivering an impromptu serenade (Kodak Elitechrome x-processed).

Unfortunately, Taryn was not there the day @metaluna shot in the lab, so we will have to catch her next time!

Mini-interviews of the "lab rats"

Laz, camera in hand. Lomography Color Negative Film F²/400.

Name, age, and are you on Lomo?

I am Laz, I'm about as old as our color processor... (23). I am not on Lomo, but if you have Instagram, you can find me yosoyelvacio. I'm on Flickr too, burritoxvegan but I almost never update it… [Laughs]

Do you have a favorite camera/film combo that you think of as "you", or does it change all the time?

This is a hard one! Right now I'm into pushing Ektar 2 stops, love how crazy the colors go. But I shoot everything, color, BW, slides... As far as a camera? My vintage LC-A gets a lot of love lately. And my Fed-2. And my Kiev 88.. and my Nikon FM... Canonet... Uuhhhh...

Do you have a certain specialty within the lab (for example, do you develop only, or scan, or print)?

I mostly process the film. I love it!

Do you think you learn from working with your customers' film, and if so, can you give some examples?

Totally! I get inspired by our customers’ work all the time! I always get so excited to go out and shoot. Sometimes I see things that inspire me to go out and copy… I mean, emulate! [Laughs]

Rachel day-dreaming, perhaps about the rolls of film she’ll burn with her own cameras through the weekend. Lomography Color Negative Film F²/400.

Name, age, and are you on Lomo?

My name is Rachel and I'm 24! Yes, I am on Lomography, though I don't upload very often...I am more of a lurker. I post a lot of film photos on Twitter.

Do you have a favorite camera/film combo that you think of as "you", or does it change all the time?

Yes! My favorite combo is Ektar in my Yashica 124G. This is "me" all the way!!

Do you have a certain specialty within the lab (for example, do you develop only, or scan, or print)?

I mostly scan!

Do you think you learn from working with your customers' film, and if so, can you give some examples?

Yes, definitely. There is a certainly a lot of inspiration from people's photos. Even more so, it has gotten me to try new types of film. There is a great community of film users online. I don't know if I would have gotten my Yashica if I didn't have to scan so many beautiful 120 rolls. That's what really pushed me to get one! Best purchase ever.

Interview by @lorrainehealy. All images by @metaluna, unless otherwise noted.

Lorraine Healy (@lorrainehealy) is an Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest. A long-time fan of plastic cameras and she is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from

written by Lorraine Healy on 2017-06-14 #printing #film #infrared #lab-rats #development #x-pro #processing #us #film-photography #film-labs #new-hapmshire #color-ir

One Comment

  1. chas52
    chas52 ·

    Hi Lorraine, I would love to purchase a copy of your book, but won't sell me a copy here in the UK, don't sell in, any ideas?

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