Kate's take on how it began:
I was driving my two teen neighbors home after our final Hapa-Hafu Kitchen Project (HKP)- a semi-regular time to cook fusion foods that celebrate our mixed heritages. As I drove, I overheard this conversation between the girls sitting in the back:
Reika: "I went thrifting last weekend on Haight St"
Clarissa: "My sister and her friends like to do that, did you get anything?"
Reika: "Yeah! I got a FILM camera!!!"
Clarissa: "Oh, wow, that's cool! I got a FILM camera from my Dad. What kind of FILM camera is it?"
Reika: "A Kodak Instamatic, it's such a COOL FILM camera!"
Clarissa: "Does it work?"
Reika: "I think so, but I have to put new film in it. I'm SO excited to have a FILM camera."
All I could hear was this strange use of the word FILM with camera. I piped in: "Wait, why are you girls talking about a FILM camera? All cameras use film." Silence... "Oh,...wait,.... right I guess, they're digital now... oh, right, and mobile phones as cameras... Wait, wait, you mean, you girls haven't ever known film in cameras?"
In the typical, resistant disbelief one experiences in these moments, I said confidently, ardently, "Surely, they still sell cameras that use film in stores; high end cameras use film. Of course, a store like Best Buy also sells cameras with film, not only thrift stores." At that moment, we passed a Best Buy and determined by a haze of denial and curiosity, I bet the girls $1 that Best Buy sold cameras with FILM. So in we went and wandered around the "camera" section --- all digital cameras--- disbelief! Thanks to disposable FILM cameras, I didn't lose the $1, but it was humbling. As we got back into the car, I groveled, "Oh man, I'm officially old now! Thanks for bearing with me through that 'catching up with time' moment." Laughter erupted!
Then I wanted to get into the nitty gritty details, "So, does the camera have undeveloped film in it?"
Reika: "Yes, but it's not recoverable."
Kate: "Why not?"
Reika: "It's in a cartridge and I would have to take it out in pitch dark and I don't think it'll work"
Kate: "Of course, it can be done! And WE HAVE to do it! Imagine what story might be hidden in the film?! Who gives away a camera with film in it? Pictures tell a story- maybe it's a love story, a mystery to be solved. We have to find out the story inside this camera-- where it's been, to whom it belonged, it'll be a mystery for the HKP to solve..."
Reika: "I don't think it'll work, it has to be pitch dark and we have to get it out of the cartridge and keep it sealed. And I think the film is really old, kind of like the camera."
Kate: "We can do it! We have to do it!"
Reika's on How It Began:
The next day, when I went to hang out with my HKP (Hapa/Hafu Kitchen Project) crew, I told them about my new “vintage” find. While 15 year old Clarissa and I saw the camera as “old” and “vintage”, Kate, on the other hand, did not. This camera did not spark Kate the way it did for Clarissa and I, but instead, made her realize that the things Clarissa and I found “old” was used or seen during her younger days. When I told Kate that I had done some research on an alternative film that the camera could use, she suggested we go to Best Buy to get some. Clarissa and I were both doubtful that Best Buy would sell film, but off we went anyway, with Kate eager on finding film for this camera.
We all hopped out of the car and entered the shop. While Clarissa and I looked at digital cameras, Kate went to ask a salesperson about film. The person made a face and responded, “We don’t sell film here. We have disposable cameras though, if that’s what you’re looking for.” After questioning the salesperson for five minutes, we all left Best Buy and decided that it was best to visit a camera store.
On the way there, Kate told us how weird it was that we were calling objects from her childhood as “vintage” and how “old” she felt. It was an interesting conversation as we all sat in Kate’s car and discussed how rapidly our world was evolving.
When we arrived at the camera workshop and picked up the film we needed, we drove back home, turned off all lights, shut ourselves in the pitch black bathroom and began to take the film out of the camera. It was my first time being in such a dark environment, and the process of taking the film seemed to have taken hours. The cartridge took forever for us to pull apart. But, with Kate’s strong will, she pulled it apart and even broke a nail during the process. (Go Kate!)
We kept the film safely in a wooden box, and it sat in Kate’s house for months as we were both too busy to find the time to find a place to get it developed. I thought that the film was too old to get developed and that the images would not come out at all.
So, when we got home that night, I converted my bathroom into a dark room. We took the cartridge out of the camera and began fiddling with it. Pulling, twisting, pulling, twisting. It was hard to pull apart. At one point, it seemed that there was no way we could break this plastic without damaging the cartridge (remember this was all in the dark!) Then it "popped" (i.e. we cracked it) and then we worked that crack until it opened. As I pulled the film out, there was a layer of paper attached to the back of the film. I rolled it up and placed it into this double sealed wood container. We put an extra layer of tape on the outside to make sure that it didn't open and expose the film.
I went off to Europe and Africa for work. Reika moved back to Singapore. The film canister sat neglected on my desk until the fall when I met Eugene Kim, an avid photographer who posted something on Facebook about film and it reminded me that I wanted to get the film developed. I asked for a recommendation of a place to get film developed-- realizing that now, getting FILM developed is a novelty.
Eventually, I took the container to Gasser Photo in San Francisco. I had an excited though mostly incoherent conversation with the very patient, knowledgable employee who listened to my story about the camera. She endeavored to decipher what kind of camera it was, because I kept referring to the "cartridge" yet said that it was not a Polariod. I didn't remember the make/model of camera or know the type of film. She opined that it was 110 film and advised me that I needed to be sure what type of film it was before I got it developed. While that is quite logical, it had entirely slipped my mind. I had only known 35 mm film and polariods; I didn't realize there were so many different types of film!
I emailed Reika in Singapore to confirm the film type from the cartridge container; 126 film was the reply. Then began the quest to find a photo lab that could develop 126 film. Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned about different types of film and discovered that Kodak discontinued making 126 film in 2008, so there are very few labs with the chemicals needed to develop this type of film. On a January trip to LA, I decided to check for photo labs. It's Hollywood- people use film here! Sure enough, I found Simi Valley Photo Lab. I called the shop and they had the chemicals to develop 126 film though the owner strongly warned me that it was likely that there would be nothing viewable on the film. While I was wildly enthusiastic about the story that might come from these long lost pictures, I was equally pragmatic to realize that it was likely 30+ year old film, subjected to who knows what conditions and would almost certainly be unreadable.
When I went to the store to drop off the film, I told the owner about the adventures with the FILM camera that was now in Singapore. He suggested that I wait while the film was developed since it was likely there wouldn't be anything on it, so that I didn't unnecessarily pay for images to be scanned. He seemed perplexed by my enthusiasm to develop pictures from a camera that wasn't mine. I explained that I was following through on the project with my 16 year old friend and I wanted her to have a sense of the joys and wonder from learning the history of "things" - all too forgotten in a highly disposable world. He commented, "Who do you think are the ones who are using film cameras? It's almost all teenagers." I left for 30 minutes where I waited for what seemed like an eternity. It was exactly 1 year since the car conversation that started this whole adventure... what would come of it?
I drove back to the shop and went in. The owner emerged from the back with a roll of negatives and a look of disbelief. "Well, you won't believe it but there are images on here." I ordered scanned images to be emailed. They arrived a week later. I was shocked by how well they turned out!
Even though I thought that the film was too old to get developed and that the images would not come out at all, I recently received news from Kate that some of this twenty-something-years-old images were appearing!
Now, as I sit in my room in my old home in Singapore, I eagerly wait for Kate to send the scanned images of the developed film. Just when I thought the adventure was coming to an end, it is still ongoing as these images we’ll have, will be our new mystery. No wonder it was instinct for me to buy that camera.
Finding the Date and the People:
Please let us know if you spot something in these pictures that would help to date them, and if you recognize the PEOPLE in these pictures, please let them/us know!
Here are the things that we identified to determine the date: