Analogue Wonderland

Building a Store for Film Photographers, Online

6 min read by Paul. Published in Film, Photography.
“Watching,” from the trip to North Korea on May 2016. Shot on Ilford HP5 with Olympus OM-1.

My motivation to start Analogue Wonderland, a store that sells film to photographers, comes from my love for the hobby and the frustration with the expensive and lengthy film buying practice.

The year 2017 has been monumentous for analogue photography. It brought a wave of exceptional products to the market: Kosmo Foto Mono, JCH Streetpan, Cinestill 50D in medium format, Dubble Moonstruck — and more. With all that, however, it was frustratingly difficult to get a reliable, steady, and well-priced supply of the new film. One would have to shop at a variety of different locations and often pay for individual shipping.

All these new products were produced to satisfy the revival of the interest in analogue photography, largely fuelled by teens and young adults and established enthusiasts. As I continued to have trouble sourcing my film it struck me that those who are helping the traditional photographic process stay alive are being under-served. These people need a better way to get film and the guidance on how to use it best.

So I built Analogue Wonderland.

When I’m not shooting film, I work on my career in sales and marketing with some of the UK’s biggest brands. Because of that, I tend to think of business as a science, and set well-defined goals at the very start. In the case of Analogue Wonderland, the main objective is building what’s best for the film photography community.

This guiding principle makes it easier to navigate difficult decisions. I resolve most of the issues by closely adhering to it, even if it means short-term financial hurt or complexity.

Dubble Film range.

Building Analogue Wonderland is not a solo adventure, of course. My partner, Mary, helps me with logistics and finances. Mavery Studios takes care of the logo and packaging. Digitalab is working with us to give the customers discounts for the much-needed development, scanning, and printing services. Film Freek is working on a video series dedicated to the budding film shooter. And as the business moves forward, I hope to expand and grow the relationships within film community.

A special thank-you to Em of EMULSIVE, Stephen of Kosmo Foto, Hamish of 35mmc and Adam of Dubble Film for their advice and input through the initial stages of the project.

My gratitude extends to the fantastic film photography community and its interesting, intelligent, and helpful people who have gone out of their way to provide advice and constructive criticism.

Like the people of Talk Photography forum, whose lively debate on what they hoped to see (and not see) from the new film store I discovered accidentally. After being permitted to join, together, we devised plans for Starter Packs and made sure that major brands, such as Ilford, were well represented on the home page and not hidden amongst the multitude of new suppliers.

Hundreds of thoughts, ideas, and tweaks also came through Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. All of which are very much appreciated and considered.

With all the advantages of being able to effectively communicate with the community, building a virtual storefront has its own lessons and challenges. Pricing strategies and focus on customer support are similar to those employed by the brick and mortar ventures, however, that’s where the similarities end.

Since there is no staff available to answer questions, on the website products need to be arranged and presented in a way that’s easy to understand for the visitor, in terms of what they are getting. Courier systems and cardboard box folding intricacies are subject to major experimentation and research. Mary and I spent a lot of effort working on the most convenient shipping methods, giving our UK customers the ability to receive their packages just a few days after the order. Especially with letterboxes taller than four and a half centimetres, which require no residents to be at home.

The project has proven to be a massive undertaking of the past four months, considering it had to fit around day jobs and responsibilities. However, everyone here is thrilled with the positive response from the shoppers, resulting sales, and the feeling that we’re elevating support for the small, independent film manufacturers. I hope that together we can keep film photography innovative and exciting for all for a long time.

At the time of this writing, we are currently joint-sponsoring the #FilmJune initiative on Twitter. A part of which is a ten percent discount on all Ilford films at Analogue Wonderland; use code #FilmJune2018. I hope you read this in time!

As for the near future, we’ve got a nice list of new products and ideas, a result of our conversations with the community. More niche film stock, including little-known brands that didn’t make it for the launch. Developer chemicals. Possible expansion into the United States and Canada for shipping offerings. A few marketing ideas involving Ilford and Kodak. Plus a few more ideas behind the scenes. If you’re interested in following the Analogue Wonderland journey a little closer you can join our mailing list (and get a voucher for free shipping on your first order with us!)

Being an active newcomer to this space, Analogue Wonderland listens carefully to your ideas and advice — as any small business should. If you have any, please feel free to contact me, or anyone on the team.

Happy Shooting!

Namib Desert. Kodak Portra 160 and Olympus OM1
Tree with Door. Lomochrome Turquoise and LC-A+