Leading film supplier Analogue Wonderland has officially opened its new processing lab, called the WonderLab. Customers will be able to order a range of film developing and scanning options through the website, after which they’ll receive simple instructions for generating a free tracked postage label to send in their negatives.
The WonderLab has been set-up by Marina Llopis, a veteran of labs and studios from around the world. Marina, below, trained at the IINO Media Pro studio in Tokyo before doing stints in developing labs in Spain and the UK, and has recruited a small team of lab technicians to join her. “The combination of Marina’s technical expertise and professional experience makes her the perfect person to run the WonderLab – as one of the few female-led labs in Europe,” said the company.
At launch the WonderLab will use best practices from top labs around the world to minimise the environmental impact of developing film, dealing with everything from plastic waste to chemical disposal. The new facility is able to process and scan colour C-41 and B&W for 35mm, 120, disposable cameras and 110 films (though some restrictions apply). More chemistries and processes will be made available over the coming months, starting with E6.
Film shooters in the Buckinghamshire / Oxfordshire area can drop off films directly for processing at the WonderLab in High Wycombe, and pick them up a couple of days later.
“Adding a lab service to our core retail offering is something that’s made sense on paper for a long time,” said Analogue Wonderland’s co-founder Paul McKay (below).
“But there are so many challenges to building a lab from scratch – for example the machinery and software tend to date from the early ‘noughties’ and there is little in the way of new parts. We needed someone with the right experience and network to help.”
Meanwhile Marina Llopis added: “this is just the beginning of a project to improve film photography’s environmental footprint forever! The research, the ideas, and the passion from the community for updating historic practices gives me great hope that we will be able to make a real difference. I’m personally also very proud to be running a female-led lab that might help more people feel that film photography is an activity for them.”
There is a special one week discount, ending Sunday.
Analogue Wonderland has announced it is building a full minilab, ready to launch to film photographers in September. The lab will be headed up by Marina Llopis, who you may recognise from her work at IFWEFILM. We caught up with Marina for a chat to find out more
Why did Analogue Wonderland decide to open a mini lab? It’s something that we often get asked by our customers – I think they would like the convenience of a ‘one-stop’ shop for film and developing. And also there are no significant mini labs in the Buckinghamshire/Oxfordshire areas, so for those film photographers that like to hand over their negatives in person (don’t trust the post!) then it will save them a longer trip into London.
Your background is very interesting. How did you end up studying photography at the Nagoya Visual Arts school in Japan? When I was a teenager it was quite clear to me that photography was my thing. I took my camera with me everywhere and always tried to soak up the work of photographers to find my inspiration. It was at that time that I found inspiration in the work of Japanese photographers such as Moriyama Daido, Kawauchi Rinko or Homma Takashi who completely captivated me.
Marina at her exhibition in Tokyo
When I finished high school my sister, who was already living in Japan, made me the proposal to study photography there. So I didn’t think twice and at the age of 18 I packed my bags and went straight to Japan for five years
What were the biggest lessons and influences you had out there? Without a doubt for me the experience of living, studying and working in Japan for 5 years has completely transformed me both professionally and personally. Discipline, respect for others, attention to detail and love for oneself are strongly instilled in my personality thanks to my experiences and the Japanese culture.
Marina studying in Nagoya
Is film photography as popular out there in Japan as it is in the UK? The truth is that in Japan analogue photography has always been quite present in the panorama. I remember when I lived in Nagoya there was a large community of analogue photographers, most of the people who exhibited in big galleries were also analogue photographers and in general in any shop dedicated to photography there was always a section dedicated to it. It is great to see analogue photography catching on strongly in the UK too.
An artist’s representation of how the new lab will look
When will the Analogue Wonderland lab be up and running? Our plan is to open the doors at the beginning of September, but we will confirm the exact date both on social media and through the different communication channels we have.
Will you offer specialist services in addition to 35mm and larger format film development? The first services will cover the popular film formats (35mm, 120 and 110) and we will develop colour, black and white and colour positive films. We have plans to add more services in the coming months such as large format film or motion picture or black & white reversal development but we have not yet stipulated when these services will be incorporated into the lab.
Are you also going to be offering printing services and digital scanning For the first few months we will offer developing and scanning services but not printing services. I am currently investigating how to make printing more sustainable without compromising on quality.
What are the biggest mistakes you see people make when they are returning to film photography? People who start with analogue photography often have a lot of problems at the beginning to know what kind of films there are and their results, how to load the films in their camera and in general how to use their cameras in a manual way. I would say that people who are now shooting digital but have a nostalgia for analogue photography may have more difficulties with manual exposure – especially when they don’t have a light meter – and also have difficulties with digitising their negatives.
Analogue Wonderland has announced it is building a full minilab, ready to launch to film photographers in September.
Leading film supplier Analogue Wonderland has announced it is opening a new minilab for film development in the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire area. “Not everyone wants to venture into London with their films, or trust the postal systems with precious negatives, so a local and reliable developing service will be welcomed as the solution to both these concerns,” said co-founder, Paul McKay.
Paul and his business partner Mary in front of their new premises
The decision to open the lab came about as a result of numerous requests for film development – “so making it simple for customers to develop their film with the same company that they bought it from seems to be an easy way to smooth the process, and keep people shooting film,” added Paul.
The lab will be headed up by Marina Llopis, who will be joining Analogue Wonderland from the start of August to help build the processes, train the team, and plan the equipment flow. You may recognise Marina from her work as IFWEFILM.
Marina started her photography career in Japan, studying at the Nagoya Visual Arts School and then working at IINO Media Pro (a commercial studio and lab in Tokyo) before doing stints in Mallorca and Bristol in different photography labs. “With all this under her belt she brings more than 7 years of specialist skills and experience to the Analogue Wonderland family,” said Paul.
Nagoya Visual Arts College
“She is also a passionate film photographer and tutor, and she will be available throughout the project to help our customers learn more about the secrets behind film developing, scanning, and printing,” he added.
“Because Marina has worked in so many different labs across the world she has been able to identify some common themes of what can often be improved, and there are three specific and important areas that she wants the Analogue WonderLAB to excel in:
Sustainability – “we will make the analogue process as environmentally friendly as possible – from start to finish – so that people know that the impact of their hobby on the wider world has been absolutely minimised.”
Organisation – “we want the WonderLAB to be the most efficient minilab in the world, eradicating process and logistical mistakes from the system, so that folks can entrust us with their special memories with 100% confidence.”
Community – “we want to cultivate a hub of film photography for our local film photographers and blur the lines between commercial and home development, so that anyone can choose seamlessly between processing at home or dropping their films at our door.”
Marina in the AW Lab space
If you have any feedback or comments about what you would like to see from the new lab, contact Marina via email at email@example.com. You can also follow the project on Instagram via Analogue Wonderland or IfWeFilm
Building an Analogue Wonderland
Subscription service offers ‘wonder box’ of analogue photography films to try
If you are interested in getting back into film photography, you may have heard of Analogue Wonderland, an innovative British company offering a wide range of film at competitive prices, while also supporting the growing analogue film-photography community. We caught up with the company’s Paul McKay to find out more, and to get his thoughts on the film revival.
Paul and his business partner, Mary, on the company’s third anniversary
How did the idea for Analogue Wonderland come about? It was one of those cliché business stories, in a way. I was a film photographer who moved around quite a lot. I found there were lots of places I could buy film in central London, but as soon as you moved away, it became more difficult. I wished a business like Analogue Wonderland existed, so I thought it should make it exist.
I set up the business with my mother in 2018, who’d recently retired. She was a passionate film photographer back in the day, so we started talking about trying to set something up on a small scale – we thought, if it works out great, if it doesn’t it will have been a bit of fun for a few months, with no harm done.
Analogue Wonderland actually took off in quite a big way… we’ve gone from fulfilling orders from the garage, to having a warehouse and a team of seven. Now we are looking to move to bigger premises, so it’s been a lovely past three years.
What was it about film that attracted you? I am in my early 30s, so I remember my parents shooting film and getting the prints back. At university, I fell back in love with photography – a few years later I inherited my father in law’s Olympus OM-1 film camera and took it on my honeymoon, along with a digital camera. I used the film camera constantly – I really enjoyed the tangible nature of film photography and slowing down, and I found the photos I took were subjectively better. I have never really looked back.
Are you worried that the current interest in film photography will just be a passing fad? People thought the convenience and low cost of digital would fix all the world’s problems, but I think actually the world is more nuanced than that – a world where analogue and digital coexist is probably the more natural course.
Recently there has been a lot of buzz around mirrorless, for example, but what Fujifilm has done around Instax instant film cameras has taken everyone by surprise.
There will always be a market for digital, but I also think the joy and the physical nature of shooting analogue will never be replaced. I don’t know anyone who is just a film photographer – everyone has an iPhone for example. You see it with movies and books, too – people have digital music players and Kindles, but still have printed books and enjoy analogue music.
How do you keep your prices so competitive? I spent ten years working for Proctor and Gamble on big consumer brands and working with big retailers. Right from start, we realised that we needed to be as good at retail at Tesco or Amazon, while at the same time bringing the love, passion and education you associate with a small shop/family business – that is why people will come to us.
They know we love film and we can help and advise them. But we can’t pretend that this is enough if we are twice as expensive as other film suppliers. We have a great relationship with suppliers around the world, who are also finding it hard with Covid, Brexit, rising inflation, the difficulties of producing certain films and chemicals and so on… we want to help and communicate the joy of using these films.
Suppliers want to be focussed on their brands and products, and we will help to get the word out there. So while I have a background in marketing, it’s the easiest thing in the world to interact with customers about something I love. If I was selling something I didn’t have a passion for, like hats, it would be more difficult. I come to work excited about the new products we are stocking.
The WonderBox subscription allows subscribers to try a wide range of different film types
Where did the idea for the WonderBox ‘mix and match’ film subscription club come from? I was inspired by some of my friends who set up a similar scheme with a company called Beer Hawk. So the idea is that we are trying to explore new films and learn together. Some people only shoot Kodak Tri X, which is fine, but other people can get overwhelmed by all the choice of film on offer – so they want a bit of help.
With the WonderBox film club, subscribers realise they getting good value with six films chosen by us every two months: they also get a video, blog article, sample photos, competitions and so on. Subscribers get inspired to try new films as a result of taking part.
120 film is stocked as well as 35mm
Have you considering buying and selling analogue cameras? Not at the moment. The reality is that buying and selling film cameras is such a complex process – you can’t just buy 100 cameras and just put them on the website, you need to check them and grade them etc. We don’t have the expertise and resources.
What is your all-time favourite film? I love Velvia 50 for landscapes as it’s a gorgeous slide film. Portra 160 is my favourite colour negative film, as the colours are so sublime. Then there is Kodak Tri X for black and white – I love the contrast, as well as the history and tradition. Staying with black and white, I also love Ilford’s sharp and beautiful Delta 100 film.
Interested in discovering 35mm film photography, or keen to get back into it after an absence? Film supplier Analogue Wonderland is starting a new subscription service – you fork out £50 and get every two months you get six different 35mm analogue film emulsions to try. The company has over 200 different films in stock, and the first ‘Wonder Box,’ to be sent out this month includes: Dubblefilm Bubblegum, Bergger Pancro 400, Ilford Pan F, Lomo Metropolis, Rollei 400S and Kodak Ultramax. We caught up with Paul McKay from Analogue Wonderland (below) to find out more.
Why did you decide to launch the subscription service for analogue film now and what exactly does it involve? Ever since we started Analogue Wonderland in May 2018 we’ve had customers ask us for ‘a regular delivery of different and fun films’ so the idea’s been there from the start. There are obviously some logistical issues when you incorporate a subscription service into a regular retail business: website code, payment providers, the warehouse set-up… there were changes in all three.
But we had done this work and originally intended to launch the subscription in March this year. The pandemic had other ideas, and we had to delay to cope with the wave of regulations and supply issues on the business. So we are thrilled to get back on track and finally go live. With every subscriber receiving six films every two months – along with some exclusive goodies and discounts – it’s a perfect way for folk to learn and experiment with films outside their normal shooting experience.
Can people choose which analogue films they get or do you choose for them? We choose! With over 200 films available on our site, there has always been the opportunity for people to ‘pic-n-mix’ their way across brands, formats and types of film – but with the Analogue WonderBox we’re looking to help people methodically learn the differences between different emulsions. We have a community of other folk on the same journey who help, and we release tips and tricks every week.
Why did you decide to arrange for delivery every two months, rather than every month? It gives people much greater flexibility to shoot the film at their own pace. We know that some folk will happily shoot three films in a week or a month, but for others who are fitting their hobby around many other things in their lives they might not be able to do anything for five weeks, then have a fortnight to shoot away happily.
It’s also more economical for us. Paying less postage each year means we can afford to include better films in the WonderBox at the same cost for subscribers, and it’s more environmentally friendly. All our film ships fresh and with many months on their lifespan so there’s no concern that holding onto a film for a few weeks will risk the quality of the results.
Do you also advise people with getting their analogue film developed? I’m definitely not an expert in film development – I leave that to the wonderful people who run labs! – but I know enough to be able to help people just starting out. The development, and scanning, of films can also drastically impact the final results of certain emulsions. Where that’s the case (like with DubbleFilm Bubblegum) we will highlight that in the week’s ‘Tips and Tricks.’
Are most of your customers returning to analogue film photography after a lay-off, or trying it out for the first time? A real mix. Broadly speaking there are the ‘youngsters’ who are discovering film cameras, the film aesthetic, the joy of taking a physical photograph – all for the first time. And then there are also people who used to shoot film, moved across to digital and experienced all the benefits and convenience of shooting like that, but ultimately miss the tangible nature (and smell of chemicals) that they got with film. Ultimately everyone these days tends to be a hybrid shooter – I myself take a lot of photos of my young family on my iPhone as well as my Canon AE-1.
Did you see an upsurge in interest in film during the lockdown, as people had more time on their hands, or has business been quite stable? It’s hard to say conclusively. For the past two years we’ve experienced lots of new customers coming to us and talking passionately about (re)discovering a love of film – and obviously a lot of that is down to us being a new company. At the same time we invest heavily in advertising to folk who we think might be interested in film.
This does not have a great return in the short (or even mid) term but it’s an important part of what we’re trying to do – to build the film community for the future, and to empower photographers with the right information and inspiration to feel comfortable adding film to their shooting toolbox. That can only come with new people entering the market and helping drive it forwards. All of this is definitely helping create interest in film which will hopefully benefit the entire industry.
Further reading The essential guide to shooting film Best used film cameras revealed
Analogue Wonderland has just announced Analogue WonderBox, a new subscription service that sends a curated set of 35mm films to analog photographers every month.
“Every week we get questions from folk getting into film photography – either for the first time or returning after a couple of decades in the digital world – asking for film recommendations and expressing amazement with the range available,” the online film shop says. “We want to capture this enthusiasm and join together as a community to help people learn and enjoy new films, while shining a light on some of the lesser-known jewels of the analog world.”
Photographers who sign up for Analogue WonderBox will have three rolls of 35mm film delivered to their door every month. For example, the September box gives subscribers a roll each of Dubblefilm Bubblegum, Ilford Pan F, and Rollei 400S (with extra goodies comprising a cyanotype kit, a free development for a roll, and an exclusive piece of AW merchandise).
Subscribers will receive information about the films along with tips and tricks for getting the best photos from each film’s unique look. Subscribers can also participate in an ongoing photo competition that offers prizes every month for photographers who share their photos and experiences with the films.
A two-month subscription (for 6 rolls total) costs £50 (~$65), which averages out to about $10.80 per roll. While this is a discount for some films offered by Analogue Wonderland — a roll of Bubblegum costs £12 (~$15.50), for example — it’s a higher cost for other rolls that would be cheaper to buy individually (e.g. Rollei 400S costs £5.50/$7.13).
However, as a subscriber, you do get the convenience/excitement of receiving a brand new set of films to try every month as well as surprise goodies in the box.
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