One of the “good” things about having insomnia is that you have a lot of free hours to spend lying in the dark thinking about random low priority issues. Last week, when I was packing some of my photographic gear to go away for the holidays, I noticed again that there is something seriously wrong with my camera cabinet. This cabinet is perfectly satisfactory on the surface: it’s a simple unfinished kitchen cabinet, fitted out with appropriate shelves for all the stuff that accumulates around cameras. It is the right size, shuts tightly, and with a big box of renewable silica crystals in it, it keeps everything dry.
However otherwise suitable, my camera cabinet has always been missing something. A while ago I figured out that that something is the smell. Digital cameras just don’t smell right. Anybody who’s shot film knows exactly what I’m talking about. An enclosed space with even one film camera in it will very quickly start to smell like film emulsion, which is one of the best smells in the whole world. My camera cabinet is nicely cluttered and holds a small but growing collection of good digital gear that I really like, but it just doesn’t smell like a camera cabinet should smell.
And then I was awake in the middle of the night, and I had this idea. I have a bunch of leftover film in my refrigerator. I have no idea why I keep it, since it has been expired for more than 12 years and is probably past its prime. But I’ve never had the heart to throw it away, and with it my last connection to my old cameras. (And with them, to my youth.) What if I took a roll of that film, let it come to room temperature, pulled a length out of the cartridge to expose some of the “live” emulsion behind the leader, and put it in the cabinet to stink it up a bit? Maybe two rolls would be even better.
So, two short rolls of Fuji Superia gave their long expired lives this afternoon to restore the sensory rightness of my camera cabinet. And darned if it didn’t work perfectly. It’s been two hours and my camera cabinet already smells like a camera cabinet.