Analogue WonderLAB

Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire’s — and the World’s — Newest Film Lab

5 min read by Dmitri.

A film lab may be the only thing standing between your rolled-up strip of plastic with unstable chemicals and a final image worthy of joy and celebration. Whether you develop your film at home or frequent your local pro shop, your film lab is a community hub meant to support photographers of all levels. From developing and printing to education and just being a place to chat with other like-minded film nerds.

What is Analogue WonderLAB?

A few days ago, Paul from Analogue Wonderland messaged me about his new lab in the UK. Curious, I jumped on the opportunity to shower him with questions.

Dubbed Analogue WonderLAB, this new facility will begin servicing the local Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire areas, starting this September — with hopes to expand into international markets (via online/mail-in services) in the coming months. The lab will begin with offering colour, black and white, and colour positive dev services in most popular formats: 35mm, 120, 110.

WonderLAB is Paul and co.’s answer to their customers’ and suppliers’ requests to “take care” of their film. Because running a minilab is a different kind of a setup than film retail, it could only be realized recently, when an opportunity with new space and new talent made it possible.

Who runs Analogue WonderLAB?

The lab, which will be an addition to Analogue Wonderland’s retail office, will be managed by Marina Llopis (@ifwefilm_ on Instagram), a young veteran technician from Mallorca, Spain. Having studied photography in Japan, she worked in numerous labs and studios across Asia and Europe. She is fluent in four languages and is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to commercial film work.

Marina Llopis  and her beloved Pentax cameras.

Lab things aside, Marina has also been helping others enter the world of film photography with her IFWEFILM project in Bristol, which may give her a great template for making Analogue WonderLAB a friendly and welcoming space for photographers of all levels.

Analogue Wonderland is a web-based film shop in the UK that retails a fantastic selection of emulsions, packaged well and delivered across the globe. Paul’s approach to his business has always been community-driven, which you can witness from the multitude of initiatives directed at folks who aren’t his employees; check out the Community Fund, the blog, the Twitter, the YouTube channel, and the #SheHeartsFilm project.

A community service.

[An elment that] we want to try and do brilliantly, is to involve the community in the whole project. Part of that is the visibility and transparency through social media and interviews like this :-) but we also hope to put some things in place regarding the physical space and opportunities with local film shooters. Once again I’m afraid I have to say… watch this space!

Paul.

Analogue WonderLAB isn’t live yet, but the sense that I got from both Paul and Marina is that they hope to have their new service have a human and approachable face. Having been their customer myself, I think that they’ll do very well in that department.

Focus on the environment.

I am not a fan of pollution. It certainly bugs to know that the photography industry is responsible for all kinds of environmental impacts.

Thanks to the experience of having worked for more than 7 years in different labs around the world, I was made aware of certain unsustainable practices that unfortunately happen within them. I could tell you many horrible stories but to mention just a few: irresponsibly throwing chemicals down the drain, throwing away piles of disposable cameras, film pots, 120 spools along with normal rubbish, sending films to the consumer wrapped in an absurd amount of plastic…

Marina.

But now that Marina has more control over her lab’s process, she plans to implement a few practices to make film photography a little more sustainable. This includes efficient packaging — while pushing the customers to do the same — as well as “using developers that have less toxic chemicals (such as those based on ascorbic acid or amino phenols).” Of course, responsible disposal is also going to be part of the process.

The good news is that there are many people already wrestling with these problems, and several ‘best practices’ that we can immediately adopt from the start of our lab in order to negate or minimise these effects.

Paul.

Analogue WonderLAB is beginning its service this September.

Apart from sustainability, which I think is quite a disruptive point in the market, the logistical systems within the lab will be further improved to make everything ABSOLUTELY clear and easy for both staff and customers.

Marina.

Efficient service that respects everyone’s time and the environment — sounds like the beginnings of a perfect lab. Understandably, there may be some bugs to iron out and feedback to implement in the early months of Analogue WonderLAB, which sounds like a beginning of an exciting journey for the entire team and those who are watching their progress.

Paul is advising the UK locals to watch for announcements this fall. And I will keep my fingers crossed for 2022 from Canada. 🤞