This article originally appeared on VICE UK
People are suckers for film photography.
"It's just grittier. I love its imperfections," says your boyfriend, who works in PR but went to Wolfgang Tillmans at the Tate Modern a couple of years ago and now has a separate Instagram "for his Yashica T5 snaps" (102 followers, approximately 10 million underexposed shots of street garbage).
But film isn't just the preserve of you, me and everyone who recently picked up a point-and-shoot on eBay and had to google what "aperture" means. It's also for weirdos. Perhaps that's related to how easy it is to destroy film compared to digital photographs. Maybe it's linked to the fact you can leave a film camera lying around without anyone being able to flick through your photos to discover all the gross stuff you've been doing recently.
Whatever it is, there's something about film that seems to make it the preferred medium of creepy old dudes, wannabe manic pixie dream girls who only date coke dealers, middle-aged BDSM enthusiasts and 20-something guys who were a bit too obsessed with Jackass as teenagers.
Which got me thinking: exactly what sort of depraved shit has been witnessed by the poor technicians employed to develop all of our film? We asked a few for their worst stories, and guaranteed them all anonymity so they don't get fired from Snappy Snaps.
'One of them had done a poo on the pillow next to another lad's head while he was asleep'
"I once developed about five disposable cameras at the same time that were from a lads holiday. I'm guessing it was a stag-do or something, because there was clearly lots of drunken antics. All the usual stuff like silly outfits, big group fancy dress shots, pictures of them larking about, bare bums and that.
"But there was also… well, basically, one of them had done a poo on the pillow next to another lad's head while he was asleep. I wasn't here when the guy who brought them in came back to collect them, which is a shame, because I would have loved to have seen his sheepish face when I gave them back. Not very pleasant, is it! I hope his missus saw them and gave him a slap!"
'The woman in them, with his dad, definitely wasn't his mum'
"The vast majority of the pictures we develop are just standard holiday photos, family pictures, people's kids and things. The most interesting ones are when people come in with really old rolls of film that they've had lying around for ages and have no idea what's on it.
"There was one time when a man came in with some film he found when clearing out his dad's house after he died. It was mostly just old family shots, nothing special, but I thought it would be quite a nice thing for his son. When the guy came to collect them he went through them with me to see if he wanted any printed larger. He then went a bit quiet, which I thought was odd. After a while he said he didn’t recognise anyone in the photos, except his dad. The woman in them definitely wasn’t his mum, and he only has sisters, but there were three boys in the pictures. It was a bit awkward and he left quite suddenly and I never found out the story. A secret second family, maybe? Very strange!"
'I have seen several people's genitalia, yes, and one or two intimate scenes'
"I'm not really sure if I should be telling you this, but my manager isn't in yet, so… we do have to look through the photos, because we'll adjust the brightness on them if they're too dark. Usually it's OK just to look at the first few and the last few, though, so there's some advice if you're ever getting any strange photographs developed: hide the weird ones in the middle of the film!
"You'd think people would be too embarrassed to bring their film in if it had dirty pictures on it, but not always. I have seen several people’s genitalia, yes, and one or two intimate scenes. That's all I'm going to say."
'A guy came in with reels full of dolls posed in different sex positions'
"I used to work at a drug store photo lab when I was in college, and we saw all sorts of weird and gross shit. Mainly sexual stuff, and then there was one creepy guy who would come in with reels and reels of pictures of younger women posing in underwear. I guess maybe he told them he was a photographer or a model scout or something? After a while I'd just get one of my male colleagues to serve him – he was such a creep. And there was also another guy who came in sometimes with reels full of dolls posed doing different sex positions. Honestly, doing that job really exposed me to some trashy men."
'It was just a pile of vomit photos'
"Where I work now, we have a policy that nobody looks at people's private photos, and we stick by that. You'd be surprised at how boring they are anyway: largely just family holidays, graduations, birthdays… and once you've seen a couple, you've seen them all.
"But where I used to work ten or 15 years ago, the culture was a lot more lax and we did see some strange things. People used disposable cameras more back then, too. One I always remember is someone documenting every time they were sick, so it was just a pile of vomit photos. I like to think it was an art project or something, but you can never be sure. There are always a few sex photos in there too, but that's to be expected, isn't it?"