special delivery mystery film

By 18/07/2009photography

When I was in Egypt, in 1989, towards the end of my 5 weeks journey I ran out of film. No problem, I thought, after all I was in Luxor which is a tourist center with a lot of shops. I went to a local photographer, who said that black and white was a long gone item in Egypt, no one had asked for it for years!  I noticed that he cast a quick glance at my Nikons too see if maybe they were antique too… To my surprise none of the photographing tourists I had spoken to that day used Tri-X, let alone had some spare stuff to sell to me. The friendly Egyptian saw my disappointment, and said he could phone a family member who took official photographs for passports, and was bound to have some black and white film left. The only problem was that he lived in another town, I forget which, but if I paid a little extra for the trip if he could deliver them before tomorrow. At first I thought this was a clever con trick, but since he did not ask for a prepayment of the amount of money he asked – which was indeed reasonable – I agreed.

As promised I was contacted late that night at my hotel by the good man who proudly produced 5 or 6 refilled plastic cartridges with black and white film of mysterious origin. I was both glad that he had gone through all the hassle for me (for the little extra money) and disappointed by the fact that it was not sealed and packaged film (and so little of it) with no proper name and a date on it. After thanking and paying the man I inspected the material closer. The cassettes had probably had a long and fulfilling life of endless refilling because the felt entrance looked as worn, flattened and dirty as the hotel entrance carpet. After all I did not dare put them in the one Nikon body that had survived the desert sand storm of a few days back. So I rationed the few remaining Tri-X’s I had left…