Ilford Black and White Film Survives for 50 Years

November 23, 2005 | Mark Goldstein | Film | Comment |

Ilford Black and White FilmIlford Press Release

The discovery of an undeveloped roll of the forerunner of the ILFORD HP film range - exposed more than half-a century ago - underlines the long lasting quality of ILFORD black-and-white film.

The debate concerning the longevity of film and photographs viz-a-viz that of digital storage and output took a decided leap forward for the film corner when an old roll of ‘ILFORD Selo Extrafinegrain Panchromatic’ film was discovered which was able to produce prints of a very reasonable quality.

Keen amateur photographer Mike Ellis purchased a photographic job lot through e-Bay from a seller in New Zealand. When the consignment arrived, Ellis found it included a Leitz reloadable cassette which contained the roll of ILFORD Selo film which ceased production some 50 years ago. Ellis decided to see if there were any images on the Selo film, so he put it into a bath of ILFORD ID-11 for seven minutes with fingers tightly crossed.

“Although the film was very tightly rolled and was showing what appeared to be emulsion cracks, I was able to process 10 usable images,” says Ellis. “Judging by the cars shown in the images, which feature a campsite, I estimate these were shot in the 1950s, or possibly earlier.”

The name ‘Selo’ first saw the light of day in 1920 when a company by that name was formed by ILFORD and two other filmmakers, Imperial and Gem, to manufacture film which each company sold under its own labels.

While the Selo company continued until 1946 when it was incorporated into ILFORD, as was Imperial and Gem, the brand continued to be used until the early 1960s on products such as Selochrome Panchromatic in 120 format. In the mid 1940s, the company was selling Selo H.P.3 film which became ILFORD HP3 some five years later and was the forerunner to today’s world-renowned HP5 film.

ILFORD Photo director Simon Galley saw Mike Ellis’s results: “These images are quite fascinating,” he comments. “I agree they appear to date from the late forties/early fifties, though it is impossible to be precise.

“Selo-branded film was first manufactured in 1938 but I do not know exactly when it was phased out. However, that particular roll of exposed film has obviously been lying in the cassette for over 50 years, and given that it has also probably been in the southern hemisphere all that time, I am amazed that any images were recoverable.

“Given that images stored on a Flashcard would not last so long, this find emphasises the benefit of capturing images on film - especially ILFORD film - at least in the first instance. It is a lesson which modern photographers could do well to heed.“

For full details of all ILFORD Photo film and other black-and-white photographic products, telephone: 01565 650 000, email: [email protected] or visit