Lisa’s first ‘New Kids on the Blog’ for 2014 introduces Hillvale, a Brunswick-based independent photo lab run by friends Jason Hamilton and Andy Johnson.  What started as a hobby has now become a busy little enterprise, as Jason and Andy develop film for a growing community of old school photography enthusiasts. – Lucy

Andy Johnson, one half of independent photo lab Hillvale, inspects processed film negatives in their Brunswick studio. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Andy appraising processed film negatives in Hillvale’s Brunswick-based photo lab. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Inside Jason and Andy’s Brunswick photo lab, where the pair process film using a C41 negative developer, then digitise the analogue format by scanning all processed negatives using a Fuji FP-3000. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Not a digital camera! Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Studio detail. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

The duo behind Hillvale, Jason Hamilton and Andy Johnson! Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Do you remember your first digital camera!?  It was amazing, you could actually see the photo you had just taken, instantly!  Unfortunately you could also see you had both your eyes closed in the family reunion photo, leading to the inevitable awkward reassembly of three generations of relatives to retake the photo. This time, another photo was tarnished by a younger cousin captured doing unsolicited bunny ears on your grandma. DELETE. So another photo, and another, and another was taken until the ‘perfect’ photo was eventually snapped, one where everyone’s smiles were strained after so many deleted outtakes. Then we moved to the camera phone, and now Instagram, where a Valencia filter can fix pretty much everything. Well, today’s New Kids on the Blog candidates’ old school approach to photography takes us back to pre-digital days, where every photo, bunny ears and all, is finite.

Introducing Hillvale, an independent photo lab based in Brunswick by two mid-twenties pals Jason Hamilton and Andy Johnson. The pair met while studying Graphic Design at RMIT in 2007. ‘We both bonded over photography, film especially, and have since pursued it both as recreation and a commercial exercise,’ recalls Andy. Hillvale officially launched in August last year, after this industrious pair spent about two years gathering equipment and securing a location.

‘The idea came about when we learned that Jason’s old photo lab (where he worked while in high school) were decommissioning their analogue photographic equipment. Soon enough we found ourselves in my parent’s garage with a C41 processing machine. After a few weeks of research we had sourced suppliers of chemistry and had it running,’ says Andy.

Jason and Andy originally ran their photo lab with the intention of processing their own and their close friend’s film, but soon enough, word of mouth spread and their services became in demand.  Keeping things a little Gen Y, Hillvale doesn’t operate like a traditional shopfront business, instead they have ‘Dropbox Locations’. Basically you take your film to one of these locations (listed here), fill out a ‘job bag’ with all of your details, and the boys will collect the film. The magic then happens at Hillvale HQ, where the pair process your film, then scan and upload print ready images for you to access via your email. They then send your processed negatives back you in the mail, and all this for just $8.00 per roll.

After just under 6 months in operation, Hillvale has snowballed in popularity.  Andy reckons it’s Melbourne’s supportive creative community that has really propelled their fledgling business. ‘Having been open a few months, there’s definitely a community feel developing, and we’ve had the opportunity to be exposed to some great people and work’ he says. ‘It’s great to know you can take a picture, we can process / scan it, then that picture may be used in an upcoming group show or zine shortly after. We feel pretty lucky to be surrounded by people who create such abundant opportunity.’

Film being processed at Hillvale HQ! Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

Studio details and nifty storage solutions at Hillvale photo lab. Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.

By the looks of this photo we’re taking it that Jason and Andy REALLY like film! Photo – Sean Fennessy for The Design Files.