Jon Yager Photography » Jon Yager Photography

Decade Old Damaged Film


I posted this picture about a year ago, but I wanted to do it again here with a bit more of a story.  The story behind this photo is more then just the story of taking it, but it is also a bit of an insight into my messed up mind.  Does that interest you at all??

First, the story of the photo.  We were visiting NYC back in early 2000.  We were there with my wife’s sister and some of her friends.  The last few times we went there the Empire State Building was packed – lines well over a few hours to take the elevator to the top. This time it was raining and totally cloudy – absolutely nobody was going up there.  We decided to go anyway just for the story of being there and seeing nothing at all. When we bought our tickets the manager came out and told us over and over again that there was no refund at all, and he thought we were nuts for paying to go up now.  We didn’t care, we just wanted to be up there alone.  On the observation deck we saw nothing.  Not a thing.  Just clouds, fog, and wet walk ways.  Then, for maybe 1 minute total, the clouds broke and the scene above was there.  I had my camera and only had time for one exposure.

Now that you know about the photo itself, lets talk about my OCD behavior and mind.  After our NYC trip, I was excited to see if this picture came out.  When I thought about the trip, this is all I thought about.  When I picked up the film from the processor (yep, I was shooting film back then) the shot from the Empire State Building was not there.  I must have been missing a roll.  I didn’t know if the processor lost it or if I did.  I looked everywhere, but to no luck.  It drove me crazy for years.

Over the next decade I thought about it constantly, I just knew there was a good image there, but it was lost.  I constantly looked for lost rolls of film.  I kicked myself over it thousands of times.  After moving the family 3 or 4 times around New England, then out to Orange County, CA, then to Ventura County, CA, I eventually found a zip-lock bag in a box in the garage that had 10 or 15 rolls of film.  I don’t think I had opened this box for 10 years.  My first thought was that my NY roll of film may be one of these.  Much of the film was at least a decade old, some well over 20 years old, I knew because I rolled my own film back then.  I took it to the processor (which I had to find since I never use film anymore) and luckily the film worked.  It was damaged (as you can see above), the color didn’t work, and it was covered with light leaks. But it worked.

Finding this picture somehow lifted a weight off of my shoulders and is one of the favorite things that has happened to me photographically in the last few year or so.  I know this picture will not change anything or impress anybody, and really is not even a great image, but to me it is fantastic.  It is funny to me how much I remembered and thought about that moment when the clouds broke, and I happened to have the camera ready to go.  It took over a decade, but the picture worked out for me at least.

  • 27 Jan ’12 - 8:23 am

    Turnbill - Wow, a beautiful shot to go with a great story. You’ve got some good karma!ReplyCancel

    • 29 Jan ’12 - 9:04 pm

      Jon - Thank you! Sometimes karma helps me out. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • 18 Jan ’12 - 11:41 am

    Jon - Thank you Ken!ReplyCancel

  • 18 Jan ’12 - 5:41 am

    Ken White - Very interesting story. I don’t think you could deliberately produce an image of New York that evokes more mystery and drama than this one. The contribution of aging and light degradation has enhanced you original to produce subtle beauty.ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *