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. The pictures demonstrate the capacity of old film technology to store images perfectly, giving rise to the question of whether digital pictures will last this long.
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.