This story started with a ten-year-old Lomography Color Negative 120 ISO 800. What has the passage of time done to it? What a pleasant surprise to find out that the film was still in good condition.
While shooting we slightly overexposed, thinking that it needed some help. However once we got the film developed, besides the first frames that have some magenta tint, the other frames came out quite alright! But the story does not end here.
We developed it with the regular C-41 process, and expected to get some funky results. However, when a film is well kept, it retains most of its properties. That's when a second thought popped up in our minds: What about an expired film cross processed? What could that look like?
We got our hands on an expired Lomography Color Negative 120 ISO 400 film that, unlike the first roll, had not been properly stored. We knew this would have resulted in funky colors. What about also cross processing Lomography Color Negative 120 ISO 400, and comparing the results?
Cross Processing Negative Film in E-6 Chemicals
For those who are new to the concept of cross processing, it consists of purposefully switching between developing solutions. Developing C-41 film with chemicals meant to be for slide film, or positive films, also known as E-6, and vice versa.
Slide films produce positive images; while negative films come back as inverted images. When we pick up a slide film and lift it up to check our frames, we can see the images as positives. Contrariwise, when we examine a negative film, we do not see the image with a positive impression, and we have to convert it to see our final results.
The developing process for slide film is more complex than C-41, where we have three main steps. In slide film, we have six: a first developer, a reversal bath, a color developer, a pre bleach, a bleach, and finally a fixing process.
It's between the first step where a negative silver image in each layer of the film is formed, and the color development that we will see the appearance of a positive image. All the other steps (in the appropriate order) are necessary to prepare, stabilize, and dye the layers. If in C-41 the control of the temperature is important, for E-6 it is imperative to keep the temperature at the right degree between 37.8℃ and 39.4℃, depending on the stage.
What Happens Then?
Applying these steps to a negative film, will produce a positive image, with a color shift tending towards low contrast and a light amber tint. Which is the result that we got from the classic cross process we have carried out.
However, even more impressive was the result of the wildly expired film. The color shift to a magenta tone was drastic and the subtle tint of amber was predominant in the highlights areas, as cyan and yellow layers have completely faded away, leaving the magenta to be the main active color on the images.
Overall, the cross process of this film gave some awesome results. As always when we allow unpredictable variants to come into our work, the unexpected results can turn out to be wonderful or an epic fail. There is always that 50/50 chance. Indisputably there is also a percentage of personal taste regarding what you consider to be a happy accident or not.
With this set of these images, the texture on the expired film is quite appealing. The complete magenta shift is giving an impactful tone, that together with the dots and stripes, elevates this work to an abstract composition. The same happy feeling applies to the unexpired film cross process, where the soft pastel tones gives a retro look to these images and become a critical component for the overall outcome.
Moreover, it is reassuring to know that an expired film, if kept in good condition (the cooler and darker the better), will last so long. Being conscious of the layers that will slowly fade away can be a key component in choosing one film over another when shooting.
What is your favorite switch in development? Have you ever cross processed film? Share your experience with us in the comment bellow.