Misc //

Goodbye, Neighbour — An Ode to Rewind Photo Lab

The Lab is relocating, but will it ever be the same?

Art by Claire Ollivain

It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood. The sun shines on the Quadrangle once more, and nearby the University, just opposite Victoria Park, magic is happening behind closed doors.

Since 2016, Rewind Photo Lab has been an icon of analog photography in Sydney. 

Proponents of both film and digital alike have drifted past its display of discarded film canisters, drawn in by the promise of quality film processing, scanning and photographic printing. To many, the process of chemically etching memories and portraits onto light-sensitive silver halide crystals sounds nothing short of magic. For co-founders Paul Trujillo and Stephen Frizza however, it’s all part of the job.

At their storefront in nearby Glebe, black walls and tiled floors enclosed a small space with shelves of developing chemicals, photography zines, vintage cameras and rolls of film. A small gallery of work showcased Sydney talent to look out for. You could find all the good stuff here — Kodak, Fujifilm, Ilford and Cinestill alongside Olympus, Nikon, Canon and a camera disguised as a Coca-Cola can. Their countertop was a light table. Every living room should have one.

But the Lab hasn’t always looked like this. Its first location was a less sleek workspace with white walls and timber flooring. Gone are the backlit table and photographer showcase, replaced largely by a cream countertop and vintage Ilford posters. Picture a ‘photo lab’ in your head, and you’ve got it. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was home. 

Having Rewind close by to the University was like having a cool neighbour you could hang out with from time to time. Students often made their pilgrimage there between classes with rolls of undeveloped film, walking out shortly after with a large white folder full of negatives. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine how many photographs of the Quadrangle have been developed there. I’ve taken a couple myself, having dropped into the lab every so often for the past four years. They didn’t have a rack full of Rewind merch back then, and they still had those ‘every-tenth-roll-free’ cards which were always awesome to have fully punched out. 

As a business, it feels like Rewind has always been at the forefront of evolution. As its services expanded, so did its ambitions. Its co-founders — wizards really — have lived through the bankruptcy of Polaroid as well as the death of Kodachrome, but that hasn’t stopped them from carrying on the spirit of film photography. They’ve helped out our very own Sydney Uni PhotoSoc run a few events, sponsoring an exhibition here and there. Rewind provided all of the prints for PhotoSoc’s 2019 ‘Retro’ exhibition.

The Lab has recently announced plans to shutter its doors opposite the road for good, moving elsewhere in 2022 to continue its mission of keeping vintage camera lovers close to a film development service. They’ll be offering more services than ever for photographers to choose from, and hopefully students at the University won’t have to go too far for their analog fix. The sun shines on over the neighbourhood once more.