Stories from Afar & Up Close

In the analog era there was no CTRL+Z, either

I was waiting in line at the photo-shop on the corner for the girl in front of me to pick up the prints of a roll of film she had brought in earlier. She was probably around twenty years old. The man in the store fished out her order from the stack and opened the envelope. Instead of a pile of prints, however, what came out was an unrolled roll of film – entirely overexposed. Not a single image captured on it.

See, he explained, there was too much light when you took the pictures, and you kept the lens open for too long, so they are overexposed. We weren’t able to print any of them.

The girl didn’t understand. What do you mean? she said, your machines can’t find what’s on the film?

No, he explained patiently, there is nothing ON the film. It’s overexposed. It didn’t capture anything. He held it up against the light for her to see – a completely yellow strip, with a dark spot of something or another on each end.

So… so… the girl asked, is there anyone I can go to who has the machines to retrieve the pictures from a film like this?

The man in the store just couldn’t explain. I think he advised her to use a digital camera again, next time.