“Try That with A Hard Drive”

December 3, 2009 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Film | 47 Comments |
News image

Photographer Mark Estabrook has recently found an exposed but unprocessed roll of Ilford HP5 black-and-white film which, after development, turned out to have been shot at a 1978 Bob Dylan concert. Developed after gathering dust for over three decades “at various room temperatures”, the film showed no apparent signs of ageing and the photographs provide a crystal clear view of Dylan on stage during the 1978 performance. “The fact these pictures survived in the condition that they did is testament to the quality and longevity of silver halide photography,” says Estabrook. “As I tell my fellow photographers: try that with a hard drive.”

Ilford Press Release

BOB DYLAN MAKES ANOTHER COMEBACK WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM ILFORD PHOTO

A film roll containing photographs of Bob Dylan has been unearthed and developed for the first time 31 years after it was exposed, thanks to UK based ILFORD PHOTO. “Try that with a hard drive,” Says photographer.

Bob Dylan has made another critically acclaimed comeback, although this time it is his image rather than his music that is causing the excitement. 31 years after a concert in Fort Worth, Texas pictures of Dylan taken using ILFORD HP5 black and white film have only now been developed after gathering dust for over three decades.

Unlike Dylan, now 68, the photographs show no apparent signs of ageing and provide a crystal clear view of Dylan on stage during the 1978 performance. For the photographer, Mark Estabrook, the fact that the pictures survived demonstrates the archival properties of traditional photography compared with digital files:

“The film lay dormant and undeveloped at various room temperatures until I discovered them when moving house recently,” He said. “I asked ILFORD PHOTO’s technical team how to develop the film and when I came out of the darkroom I was amazed how well the images had been preserved. It was as if I shot the show yesterday, with superb grain detail.”

“I have used various digital storage, from floppy disks to flash drives, since 1982 and a hard drive would never have lasted that long, let alone an inkjet print. The fact these pictures survived in the condition that they did is testament to the quality and longevity of silver halide photography. As I tell my fellow photographers: try that with a hard drive.”

ILFORD PHOTO has been manufacturing photographic products, from film to darkroom chemicals, since 1879 and the company remains one of the few brands surviving from the halcyon days of darkroom photography.

Marketing Director, Steven Brierley believes that finds like the Dylan pictures are helping analogue photography experience a comeback of its own:
“Images like these demonstrate the impact black and white pictures have to a new generation of photographers, as well as their capacity to last.”

“There is a romance and an verve to darkroom photography and real silver-gelatin prints that is actually heightened by the predominance of digital. It’s an ethereal quality that cannot be matched with digital prints,” He added.

The Bob Dylan film was kept in the original ILFORD PHOTO tin alongside shots of seventies rock and roll band Little Feat. Now an airline pilot, Mark Estabrook was a noteworthy rock and roll photographer during the seventies and the pictures will be included in a new book of music photography planned for publication next year.

Photo © Mark Estabrook 1978



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#1 buoyancy aids

Fantastic find and a top class image of the Great Man. Dylan might of aged but his music is timeless, well not counting his christmas record.

12:35 pm - Thursday, December 3, 2009

#2 Sean

Great story, hooray for real black and white film, and that's a good picture there. I can't but remark on Dylan wearing the crucifix very prominently at this point. The Fort Worth show was November 24, 1978, I believe? For some reason some lines from a recently republished interview in Spin magazine (from 1985) come to my mind:

In most of my songs, I know who it is that I'm singing about and to. Lately, since '78, that's been true and hasn't changed. The stuff before '78, those people have kinda disappeared, '76, '75, '74. If you see me live, you won't hear me sing too many of those songs. There's a certain area of songs, a certain period that I don't feel that close to. Like the songs on the Desire album, that's kind of a fog to me. But since '78 the characters have all been extremely real and are still there. The ones I choose to talk about and relate to are the ones I find some kind of greatness in.

10:13 pm - Friday, December 4, 2009

#3 Ryan

There's no particular reason why a hard drive of that age that's gone unused couldn't potentially be read. I have hard drives that are over 15 years old still going strong.

11:55 pm - Saturday, December 5, 2009

#4 Pedro Almeida

Cool story. Just wondering about the marketing attached...

9:03 am - Monday, December 7, 2009

#5 Danbat

Another issue with digital it's about compatibility through time. File formats, hd file systems, cd->dvd->blu ray evolution, etc. It's like compare photo formats in the 19th century. Many tries and experiments to obtain the film we know and use. Maybe in 30-40 years we'll gonna use a support method totally different to a hd or dvd and reliable like film.

5:21 pm - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

#6 John Sheppard

Too bad photo chemicals cause various skin, lung diseases and cancers. Two of my dear friends have died of cancer and lung problems DIRECTLY DUE to long time exposures to various photo chemicals. I think I will stick to digital and Photoshop instead of letting my family watch me slowly wither away in agony from cancer causing photographic chemicals!! ~~SHEP~~

7:03 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#7 Rob Oresteen

I routinely develop and print film that is 5-10 years old without issue.

I have had hard drives crash after 4 months (Seagate 500 MB).

Nothing more ironic than "simulating the film look" with a digital file only to hope it stays intact on a hard drive or CD somewhere!

7:54 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#8 Max Perkins

The consensus among scientists and engineers is that magnetic storage media such as hard disks retain the stored information more or less indefinitely.

Compatibility can be a real problem; but not if you still have access to a computer from that era. And solid-state electronics, too, have a virtually unlimited timespan.

7:58 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#9 Tom Dafforn

One time in the mid 90's visiting D.C., I walked thru the Capitol Reflecting Pool. It had been drained of water and only 18 inches of drying muck was in the pool. I found a 35mm canister of film and had it developed. Having been in the mud and water, I figured nothing would come of it, but all the prints were clear enough to see what had been photographed, and a third to half showed no effects of the wear!!

10:10 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#10 Hanspeter

So the moral seems to be:

good quality film = long lifespan
low quality HD = short lifespan
high quality HD = long lifespan

This is a surprise, how?

10:59 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#11 Lazarillo de Tormes

Even if a hard drive lasted indefinitely, I wonder if the image quality of a photo taken today with a current top of the line, modern digital camera would be acceptable 30 years from now.

11:02 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#12 Roger

John,

You do know about the vast amount of "e" pollution occurring on a global basis, both in the manufacture and disposal of computers? I guess we can be excused of thinking about that because most of it is happening in 3rd world countries and China.

11:12 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#13 Charlie

I bought some exposed rolls of Ilford HP3 on ebay two years ago.
I Developed two rolls of the HP3 Kodak X-Tol developer.
To my surprise there was little base fog and clear images.
They turned out to be photographs a soldier serving in Cyprus in 1958 had taken on his tour of duty there.
I think he had not developed the films because the camera he was using was faulty; it was not advancing the film correctly. The first few frames would be ok but the film would get chewed up after that.
Rather than pay for processing he put the exposed rolls in a draw.
There were rolls of negatives in the film cans to that were in very good condition.

I have scanned the rolls of HP3 and the negatives they are in my found film folder on Flickr.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/10239287@N06/1677693772/in/set-72157602293783363/

Ilford films certainly keep well.

Charlie

11:12 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#14 Michael

Within the last year, I've starting experimenting with shooting landscapes using a used Pentax 645N and Velvia 50......blows digital away in terms of clarity, saturation, colors, etc. I have the slides scanned during processing so I have the (large) jpegs and the original slides are also in the safe.

Both have their place.....digital is the only way to go for things that move and where the crop factor is useful for pulling things in closer (sports, wildlife, etc.).

11:15 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#15 John Sheppard

95% of digital images are sold as 8 X 10 or 11 X 14 prints. My Canon 880 P & S can do that as well as my Nikon F-3's and Tri-X and D-76!! My Nikon D-300 has given me a fantastic 16 X 20 from a JPEG!! ALL my images are archived on two external hard drives as well as the PC. I also send them to an offsite storage place. These images will be around as long as there is an Earth or the six months I have to live!! ~~SHEP~~

11:17 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#16 John Sheppard

It is scandalous how China, various countries in Africa and other poorer countries are having to deal with the "E" pollution. There are better ways IF there is the WILL to do so. However when I did a photojournalism essay on that very subject, I found that although it was a horrible way to make a living with all the medical ramifications, etc., it was the ONLY way those folks could make a living to feed their families. Dismantle old electronic equipment under outrageous condition or starve to death. I have no answer for any of this. If we do not use technology then we will perish. I have friends who eat only "organic" foods and then complain about the triple cost for that food!! LOL ~~SHEP~~

11:28 pm - Monday, December 14, 2009

#17 Jon

It all depends on how careful you are with the medium you use. Film has proven to be a great long term medium, but there is no reason that digital media can't last 30yrs and beyond given the tools we have today (even yesterday). Online backup services, additional drives, removable drives, etc., make it more than possible. I can still get copies of original software titles for the Atari 2400, Commodore 64 or Apple II. Somehow those digital assets remained intact for 30+ years, so why not digital photos? The oldest digital assets that I personally have are going on 20yrs now (files from an old Tandy 1000 computer).

12:09 am - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#18 André Weigel

Wow... pretty awesome blog post !

12:37 am - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#19 Rob Oresteen

Even the best HD's fail from time to time and true, negatives or slides can be lost or damaged in floods or fires.

However, I would bet on film media over digital if it meant what would be usable 30 years from now.

12:41 am - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#20 bob

31 years????
not long enough compared to this: http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/

8:42 am - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#21 Richard Spencer

Ahhh...this old chestnut!

Easy. Expose the film (I will forever cleave to 35mm B&W), process it according to the manufacturer's advice. Scan it and store the files on an archival quality DVD. The stored film can be read decades into the future by whatever technology will be available, but the gold embossed DVD should easily last just as long.

1:06 pm - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#22 Mike

Only an idiot would have 1 copy of his pictures on 1 hard drive. How many back up copies do you have of a film negative? You will never recover from a scratch on a mis handled negative.

3:32 pm - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#23 Mike

Cool -- go Silver Halides !

10:01 pm - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

#24 daugav369pils

“There is a romance and an verve to darkroom photography and real silver-gelatin prints that is actually heightened by the predominance of digital. It’s an ethereal quality that cannot be matched with digital prints,” He added.

Can anyone translate this BS? I see all the film freaks crawling
out of the woodwork. Digital rules! Get over it.

7:54 am - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#25 alias

It would be an unremarkable shot save for one thing – the cross around his neck. Fort Worth was the first time he wore it.

1:57 pm - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#26 Fred

The thing is digital failure is precipitous and complete--100% gone. But while the Kodachromes my folks shot of me in the early 50s may have deteriorated slightly, they are still perfectly usable. I shoot mostly digital today but I worry a lot more about protecting those shots than the thousands of negatives I have in archival sleeves.

9:02 pm - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

#27 Mike Keller

Neither film nor digital rules. Both have their place. Both are appropriate. If you're shooting 90% for publication, going digital removes two optical steps (making prints, then scanning) before the image gets into the digital realm of the modern press.

For exhibition, both have their place. The thing I like about digital is that I can treat photography as a printmaking medium, and print on papers previously reserved for etchers and engravers. I laugh about digital photographers wanting inkjet papers that replicate fine black and white papers. If I want that, I'll make a print on a sheet of Seagull, and enjoy doing that.

I often make comparisons to the problems you can have with film and digital: mis-processed film, bad film feed, corrupted flash cards... Both have their "negatives" as well as positives. Pick your poison, but don't laugh at the other side.

I'll never give up my film cameras, but instead, use them when I want and for the Zen of shooting with an M3 or a Deardorff.

1:07 am - Thursday, December 17, 2009

#28 John Sheppard

In my humble opinion the Leica M-3 was the best Leica ever made. A 1:1 CLEAR viewfinder and a wide rangefinder base, plus a precision "feel" made it just nest in your hand just right. My friends M-3 feels better than my old M-4. And you cannot have a better "smell" than a fresh roll of Kodachrome right out of an aluminum can. LOL
~~SHEP -- living in the past.

1:15 am - Thursday, December 17, 2009

#29 Rob Greer

I see the film vs. digital debate is (unfortunately) still alive and well.

1:35 am - Thursday, December 17, 2009

#30 alias

We know where Bob stands on the digital/analog debate: the guy has recorded his last four albums analog. Considering that they don't even make two inch tape any more, that represents a real commitment.

1:49 pm - Thursday, December 17, 2009

#31 Ashley

Hard drives are not as fragile as you think! Try this with film:

http://tinyurl.com/y945emb

It's amazing what you can do when you know the right people :)

2:11 am - Saturday, December 19, 2009

#32 Donald Murray

Hard drives and CDROMs do not have very good lifespans. They might last 20 years. This is mostly because of error correction. Eventually, they will die when you hit a bug in a file and they'll gradually die over time.

In fact, after 200 years, there would be very little records of any sorts, other than certain books and some of the more durable film.

The Egyptions had stone....we need something similar. 2000 years from now, they'll know more about the egyptions than us....:-)

6:33 pm - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

#33 famous photographers

erm, digital files can be backed-up on another hard drive in another country - try that with film :)

what about no cost of processing?

12:56 pm - Monday, February 8, 2010

#34 Donald Murray

Sure, you can buy a film to digital converter for a few hundred bucks.
Film will have higher resolution. e.g. A friend of mine sells photo art and sells prints that are 3"x3", which would take a resolution of something like 20MPixels to achieve that image size using digital.
Neither film nor digital will last forever, as I mentioned above.

2:34 pm - Monday, February 8, 2010

#35 nick

John Sheppard

Too bad photo chemicals cause various skin, lung diseases and cancers. Two of my dear friends have died of cancer and lung problems DIRECTLY DUE to long time exposures to various photo chemicals. I think I will stick to digital and Photoshop instead of letting my family watch me slowly wither away in agony from cancer causing photographic chemicals!! ~~SHEP~~

I don't wish to question your loss, but this seems rather extreme. What were they doing, bathing in the chemicals? Drinking them? Basic precautions when using d&p chemicals such as avoiding skin contact, proper ventilation, not spending inordinate amounts of time in the darkroom etc all ensure safety. I can't say I have heard of any documented cases of cancers caused by d&p chemicals, indeed I and all my darkroom buddies are still going strong after at least 30 years 'exposure'

4:48 pm - Sunday, February 14, 2010

#36 Aerial installation

Considering that a lot of materials would turn to nothing after 30 years, the condition of this photo is amazing.

Must've been preserved in a good place.

7:51 am - Monday, September 27, 2010

#37 NY Divorce Lawyer

You'll be amazed what kind of stuff we discover when we investigate what people have when they are getting a divorce. They often never knew what it was or its real value.

9:10 pm - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#38 NY Criminal Lawyer

The same is true in criminal cases, actually, because many people suddenly find valuable property when they need to put up bail.

9:19 pm - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#39 News

Is this picture really valuable or is it just interesting news and nothing more?

9:24 pm - Wednesday, October 27, 2010

#40 shawnlee100

I don't wish to question your loss, but this seems rather extreme. What were they doing, bathing in the chemicals? Drinking them? Basic precautions when using d&p chemicals such as avoiding skin contact, proper ventilation, not spending inordinate amounts of time in the darkroom etc all ensure safety. I can't say I have heard of any documented cases of cancers caused by d&p chemicals, indeed I and all my darkroom buddies are still going strong after at least 30 years 'exposure'mcts dumps

7:46 am - Sunday, November 21, 2010

#41 john100

Too bad photo chemicals scwcd dumps cause various skin, lung diseases and cancers. Two of my dear friends have died of cancer and lung problems DIRECTLY DUE to long time exposures to various photo chemicals. I think I will stick to digital and Photoshop instead of letting my family watch me slowly wither away in agony from cancer causing braindump security+ photographic chemicals!!

7:52 am - Sunday, November 21, 2010

#42 JohnnyD

What a fluke. Something being filmed that long and was preserved stop puppy barking. As the title says, who needs hard drives ey?

10:29 am - Monday, November 22, 2010

#43 NICK

I rather like the smell of fixer, although I can see it may be dangerous. I think instances of people suffering disease through exposure to dev chemicals is very small. I and others I know have been around them for over 30 years and the worst we have are interesting stains on our shirts. Tongs and good practice are sufficient to minimise danger.

Better than withering away in front of Photoshop for hours trying to digitally manipulate a poor picture into a good one by adding elements, taking some away and generally creating digital art and not taking photographs.

10:39 am - Monday, November 22, 2010

#44 black berry

Bob dylan once made me became wondering whether his existence will last long, but fortunately, since I was not born until now, bob really did well in case to be exist in the world of music and acting, beside that, he is one of my dad's most favourite artist. since, he is not too complicated on his own life. Can exist more than 30 years...that is fantastic

5:14 am - Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#45 marwanlaunch

it suggests something saved in hard drive a long time ago.

10:19 am - Wednesday, January 26, 2011

#46 john14

We are currently developing to solve the larger proof of concept. It would interesting hear ideas about what kind of learning you want to do breeding a promoter. ccent
Bye

12:21 pm - Saturday, April 2, 2011

#47 Still > #3 Ryan

"There's no particular reason why a hard drive of that age that's gone unused couldn't potentially be read."
I have had a few hdd that merely did not start spinning after they had been powered off for some 3 or 4 years. NOT a single hdd, but 3 or 4, different brands: Seagate, WDC, Samsung.

7:44 am - Thursday, August 18, 2011