Located in Valencia, Spain, Malvarrosa Film Lab is Laura, Gema, Buenaventura, Héctor and Paula – a team of five best friends who met each other through their mutual love for analogue photography. "Through this common passion, and our certainty that we had to offer an analogue experience that would do justice to film’s amazingness, Malvarrosa Film Lab was born," shares Buenaventura.
When did Malvarrosa Film Lab open?
We launched the lab and the website on March 7th, 2019. We’ll always remember the excitement of finally having our own lab. Little did it matter that we initially worked from a minuscule facility. Nine months later, with business booming and needing a lot more space for machinery, we moved to our current space in the Valencian Ruzafa neighborhood which is all we ever dreamed of.
How did your journey with analogue start?
It’s funny each of us individually gravitated towards analog photography in a similar way. Most of us through toying around with old film cameras passed down to us by our grandparents or parents. We all tried to learn as much about film as possible by browsing the internet and by interrogating the guys at what used to be the only remaining “old school” lab in town. Eventually, a few of us first met through Flickr. One thing lead to another and voilá: we decided to do things our way and our baby Malvarrosa was born.
In a digital era, why would you take on the idea of opening such an analogue space?
Because film just looks so much better (for our own professional or personal work we could never go back to digital), and because the whole process is so much richer in details and allows for so much customization through building solid photographer-lab relationships. That was the main thing: with film being such an incredibly malleable medium we really felt like we could offer something meaningful, both for photographers that just want a great look without much thinking behind it and for those that know exactly what they need from their film but can’t seem to get it from more “assembly line”-type labs.
Have you seen an increase or a decrease in recent years?
We’ve experienced a meteoric rise ever since we launched Malvarrosa Film Lab in 2019. Of course, we expect for this to eventually stabilize (would be nice to get some sleep haha), but the response has been overwhelmingly good and we’re extremely thankful. Worldwide the film community seems to keep growing year by year so things are looking good for all film photography enthusiasts.
What are the services you offer? Is one more popular than others?
We offer film processing of all types (color, back and white, slide film, and ECN2) as well as scanning of all formats with our beloved Fuji Frontier SP3000 scanners. We do specialize in 35mm and medium format film since it’s what we work on the most. Our most popular service (which has no additional charge btw) is our 35mm or 120 Fuji Frontier scans with borders. Nobody can resist that classy look that scanning with borders adds to film!
What is the craziest request you got?
Hmmm obviously due to respect for our clients’ privacy we can’t delve too deep into this question. Maybe not the craziest but the sweetest request from one of our most beloved clients was that we scanned his rolls fully enjoying the process since he claimed he’d definitely notice.
What are some of the challenges you face as a Film Lab?
The biggest challenge is to build the best possible photographer-lab relationship possible in terms of feedback through each order. Photography is such a subjective experience, and words sometimes fail to express correctly what clients want from their film. However, words and reference images are all we’ve got, and it’s our daily challenge to understand exactly what our clients’ dream look is. Communication, as you might expect is absolutely key, both when we absolutely nail it as well as when we don’t.
Are you afraid that the analogue photography wave might dissolve eventually?
Not really. We’re all pretty optimistic about film future, so we don’t waste much time with the usual “end of film” babble which has been going on since we started shooting and never really happened. Actually, the exact opposite happened. So yeah, full optimist mode here!
Do you still have time to shoot? Do you have time to develop your own material?
We all started shooting professionally less upon launching the lab, but now that we’re consolidating our game we’re all going back to shooting a lot more. Of course, we never stopped shooting personal work even in the busiest times. So yeah, we always find a little time to shoot and work on our own film.
What are the measures you're taking to make your darkroom a sustainable/green environment?
Other than basics like recycling everything that can be recycled or minimizing our plastic use/waste to the bare minimum, all our chemicals are the eco-friendly versions that each brand commercializes. Hats off to Fujifilm for coming up with their ENVIRONEG series chemicals, which we use tons of for our daily colorwork. Of course, all chemical residues that we generate are collected on a monthly basis and treated so as to neutralize all possible effects on the environment. So yeah, this is important for us so we’re happy that we’re doing things right. You know what they say: there is no Planet B!
As a darkroom, what advice would you give photographers based on your knowledge from the post-shooting side?
Try stuff for yourself. Online communities are amazing (we met on Flickr back in the day!) but at one point or another, you’ve got to try out that film stock or that new camera for yourself, since what works for another photographer doesn’t necessarily have to work for you. And of course, build a relationship with your lab. Look for a lab that gives you feedback about the technical side of your shooting and watch your shooting improve with each order, as well as your satisfaction with each new batch of scans you receive from the lab.