Pierro Pozella has already made a name for himself as one of the most talented young film camera repairers in the UK.
Under the name PPP Cameras, Pozella has been repairing all manner of film cameras and lenses for the best part of a decade – despite still being in his mid-20s. (I’ve used Pierro’s repair services, including for cameras sold through my online camera shop Cameraburo.)
Pozella recently moved from his native London to Birmingham – and since the move has opened up a new business alongside his repairs and camera sales; a film processing lab.
The lab started operations earlier this year, with Pozella juggling the new lab alongside his repair work and other activities.
Kosmo Foto spoke to him about why he’s decided to set up the lab, and where it goes from here.
PPP is best known for repairs – what made you want to start the lab?
“Around 12 years ago – before starting my repairs, I worked as a darkroom assistant at Haymarket Publishing. Being in this environment, I became really excited about the developing process and learned a lot of technical skills. It was here that I hoped one day I could set up my own lab.”
What services are you offering?
“The lab currently offers on C41 processing only. This has allowed me to really focus in on the small details to offer unique and bespoke services. I am currently running custom masks on my Fuji Frontier SP3000 which allows me to capture a 6% greater scan area on standard 35mm film – capturing even the smallest of details on the edge of your images. With the custom masks, I can now offer specialist scanning for panoramic negatives.”
PPP Lab offers the following services:
- C41 processing + scanning + print service
- Specialised scanning for XPan/panoramic negatives on the Fuji frontier SP3000 with custom masks (currently the only lab in the UK running these specific custom masks for Xpan )
- Scanning only service for 35mm and 120 colour/slide/black and white film
- Print-only service 6×4 to 8×10 prints
- E6 cross processing (as C41)
What lab experience have you had before?
“As I mentioned earlier, I was traditionally trained in my role as a darkroom assistant at Haymarket Publishing. This was a small in-house darkroom where I hand-printed images from an extensive archive – working with glass plates, 35mm, 120 and 4×5 printing. Alongside this, I was also working in high-street labs so I gained insight into both traditional and commercial processes.
“During my BA I moved into hand printing colour images from 35mm up to 11×16 negatives. This progressed into my MA studies, where I was able to draw on the skills I had developed, to capture electromagnetic field using traditional darkroom methods.”
Film has undergone a big boom recently, but how easy is it to start a lab from scratch?
“There is a lot to learn if you are going to start a lab from scratch. It’s not as simple as just buying one, filing it with chemistry and off you go.
(The above pics were provided by PPP Film Lab and are examples of the lab’s 35mm scanning.)
“The lab equipment was built almost 30 years ago so it comes with its quirks and needs regular TLC. Luckily my repair knowledge has helped me understand the machine and therefore learn how to maintain it correctly. Coming from a darkroom background also, I was aware of the need to maintain the chemistry to achieve optimum results, consistently.”
What’s the response been like so far?
“The response has been really positive so far. There has been a nice balance between postal orders and drops offs meaning I can support my repair customers and those local to the lab itself in Birmingham. PPP Lab has already supported several local photowalks and gained the “trust of both local and international professionals who rely upon my service.
“New customers have really enjoyed the front facing side of the lab, where they’re able to walk in and drop off their film directly. I’m able to walk them through the process – showing them the machines and how they work. These regular and new customers have said it really helps them to understand the process and how different stages affect their images.”
What other services are you planning?
“I am currently repairing a smaller machine to allow for B&W developing which will also allow for ECN2. This is in the works and will be something that will be available in a year or so.”
How do you find the time amid your booming repair trade?
“ADHD/Autism – it’s amazing what it can allow you to do!”
As a repairer are you curious about which cameras take the shots you’re processing?
“Yes definitely!. With the lab, it’s amazing how with the Fuji SP3000 you can identify exactly what camera and lens has been used by how it renders intricate details from each camera. It is also really surprising to see the great results that can be achieved using standard compact film cameras.
“There is a natural bridge between my repairs and the film lab. The main thing which I have started to do is to write note on each film scanned for the customer when I see faults. These notes are essentially like taking your car for an MOT and getting a list of advisories. As a repairer my mind never switches off and when I see a light or frame spacing issue even the smallest fault on the negative I pick it up.”
Kosmo Foto has already tried out the lab, sending both C-41 120 film (Pozella warning us there were issues with the camera before the scans were sent) and his recently announced C-41 cross process dev and scan service for E-6 films.
Some examples of the C-41 cross process scans are included below, shot on a Minox 35AF and Kodak Elite Chrome Extra Colour 100 film: