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News & Insight

Artists ‘Develop’ 35mm Film Via Their Own Digestive Systems

By Kishore Sawh on March 18th 2014


Exploring, and photography have gone hand in hand since the form was invented, and the similarities and afflictions of one seem to have similar effects on the other. The problem with exploring is that, largely, the big records have been set for now. To be the first in almost many endeavor is increasingly unlikely. People have already climbed the highest peaks – and photographed them, and traversed the most desperate lands and loneliest oceans – and photographed those, too.

With each new step taken, or each new photographic style tried, it becomes harder to do something novel. The desire to do something different, however, is still there, thankfully. A duo of graphic design students hailing from Kensington University have just done that with film unlikely to have been done before, at least deliberately, and that may be a bit hard to digest.


The project is called “I Turn Myself Inside Out,” and it involved students Luke Evans and Josh Lake, swallowing individually cut pieces of 35mm, allowing the turmoil of a digestive tract to ‘develop’ the film. Though ‘develop’ is perhaps not the right term to use, as essentially what was being measured and made into an image was the damage done to the film as it passed through the various stages of Luke and Josh. Upon retrieval, ahem, the film pieces were washed and then examined under an electron microscope, and what was seen was blown up into large black and white prints, which you see here.

[REWIND: Why Film Is Still Better Than Digital]


To, Evans, when asked about the mentality behind the project, went on to explain why it was done, and what were some concerns:

There is a physicality to film that we wanted to explore: the soft emulsion layer, its thickness, the way it reacts to touch and temperature. At this point we were really excited because there was absolutely no way to envision how the results would look, and that no two would be the same: would the film’s gelatin content be completely digested by enzymes? Would we ever get the film back?

Not in the habit of eating film on the regular, the two sought professional medical consultation, and were told that the biggest risk they could foresee was obstruction of the colon, and or possible perforation of the colon. Not easily deterred, they created small capsules to contain the film in, which would reduce the risk of said perforation, while allowing digestive fluids to still reach the film. As an added bonus, the capsules made for easier work when it came time to sift through their ‘deposits’ to find the film.





The imagery created is not at all what I would call photography. It may be arguable to think of the body as the camera, but it’s a bit of a stretch. That being said, I’m always interested in seeing unique ideas materialize. I’ve always been fascinated with electron microscopes and the multi-dimensional images it made from this film are certainly unusual. This whole thing is sort of gross, very odd, and quite cool at the same time.

It also made me think of my first time in Toronto. I have just moved there in 1990, still a kid, and some of the news that year was the Ryerson University film student who used water taken directly from Lake Ontario, and used it to develop film. It was so full of a mixture of chemicals that within about 24-36 hours it would develop film. I actually find that significantly grosser and a large reason I decided to never set foot in that lake. Ever. I see more promise in the work of Luke and Josh.


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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Smarten Up

    I would question the portion of the film emulsion that was left inside the students. Now, It MAY have passed through relatively quickly, with not much harm to their bodies, but I can also imagine that “developing” a lot of film this way could lead to problems.

    Anyone a chemist, or bio-chemist who could say?

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  2. pam farrell

    Perhaps it’s not photography, but it could be considered “film-based” imagery. Or something like that. I do like the randomness of the process.

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  3. Really??!

    Are you guys really that desperate for articles? Kishore, I have read your articles before, and they are good. Now saying this is photography related just because these jackasses swallowed a piece of negative blows my mind! NOTHING was photographed and NOTHING was developed. All they did was sift through their turds, put it under a microscope and hit print (or sent it to mpix or shutterfly). The point is you are drawing readers in with clever titles and give us crap… literally.

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  4. Hanssie

    Strangely fascinating, but really really gross.

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