Louisiana’s last film developer keeps the tradition alive in Metairie

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METAIRIE, La. -- Bennett's Photo, known originally as Bennett's Camera in 1909, has been developing film for over 100 years.

Now, it's the only store in Louisiana that still develops black and white film in what some consider "the old school way."

"We're developing film by hand, in a dark room. So, we take the actual film and load it onto a reel, put it into a can, pour developer in it, process it, very precisely," says store manager, Nicky Latino.

Because the film is so sensitive, one of the steps means working in pitch black darkness.

Latino says there has been a resurgence in popularity when it comes to black and white film.

"What we are noticing is a lot of the younger generation has never seen film, never shot film, never had pictures taken of themselves with a film camera. [They] are coming across film cameras whether it be from a father or grandfather's camera showing some interest in it, coming in and asking questions about it," says Latino.

A big majority of the rolls brought into the shop are from those cleaning out old attics or basements.

Latino says customers are always eager to see what treasures have been tucked away and for how many years.

He says processing the film takes about 30 minutes per roll, and the end product can be very touching to those who are waiting to view there loved ones.

"A lot of times we will see pictures of people who have long past, and there has been some emotional moments at the front counter," says Latino.

Latino says his entire life has revolved around his love of photography and developing.

It's a passion that continues to be very hands on.

"I do like to see and do things with my hands mechanically. So, being able to develop film is pretty special," says Latino.

The original shop opened on St. Charles Avenue when photography was still in its infancy back in 1909.

Now, the store is located on Severn Avenue in Metairie where people like Latino are working to keep the tradition alive.


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