From being out of a job to opening their own photo lab, Halide Supply’s trio of founders have taken the shop from idea to growing business. We chat to owner Jed Rann about supporting the film photography community and starting a new business.
When the trio behind Melbourne photo lab Halide Supplywere given an ultimatum by their old boss to work for free or find a new job, the choice wasn’t a difficult one. Founded by Jed Rann, Gong Piyathath and Emil Raji in October 2018, Halide Supply is the culmination of years spent working together in a series of Melbourne photo labs as they gradually gained insight into the business side of photography. Feeling comfortable in their combined skillsets, alongside the fact they needed somewhere to work, it was at a popular pizza place in the side streets of Collingwood that the trio decided their next step had to be opening their own photo lab. However, they didn’t realise it would happen right across the street.
“What I really like seeing is people sharing their work and projects with us when they come into the store. Whether that means inviting us to exhibitions, magazine launches or music gigs, I’m always really pleased to be a part of these projects.”
“When we were brainstorming ideas for the business, one place that we would gather was Lazerpig, which is coincidently right opposite from where Halide Supply is located today,” says Rann. “At that time we hadn’t even found a space but weirdly enough 24 Peel St soon became available and we jumped on it – it’s funny how things turn out.”
Situated deep within one of Melbourne’s key creative hotspots, Halide Supply’s Collingwood surroundings are overrun with artist studios, fashion boutiques and digital agencies. But while these places can sometimes be intimidating for newcomers to Melbourne’s talented but tightknit scene, Halide Supply has made a point of being approachable for first-timers looking to hand over their initial rolls of film. With momentum around film photography only growing in popularity on Melbourne’s streets, immersing the business within the city’s strong creative presence is an important consideration at Halide Supply.
“I think [the re-emergence of] film photography is still well within its early stages,” says Rann. “But what I really like seeing is people sharing their work and projects with us when they come into the store. Whether that means inviting us to exhibitions, magazine launches or music gigs, I’m always really pleased to be a part of these projects.”
Halide Supply offers customers a fully kitted out photo lab, featuring affordable 35mm and 120mm scanning via a Frontier SP-500 and an Imacon Flextight Photo. Both can also be accessed via Halide Supply’s membership scheme, which makes processing cheaper for regular film developers. There’s also an ever-changing selection of rare film cameras, plus a choice of 35mm and 120mm film stock to match. Perhaps most importantly, there’s a large community space where customers, staff and friends can hang out and play a game of pool, which is where you’ll find everyone during downtime.
Rann’s own history with photography is a pretty interesting tale. Hardly an uncommon story with film photography obsessives, Rann’s passion for photography was kick-started alongside his addiction to skateboarding. Having picked up a video camera when he was 19 years old after suffering an injury that limited his ability to skate, he set about recording his mates. Later when living in Canada, he had to go on hiatus from photography when he traded his DSLR in to cover rent and bills. But on his return to Australia, a friend lent him an Olympus OM10 with a nifty-fifty, marking the beginning of his love affair with film.
When it comes to beginners in film photography, Rann is hesitant to offer too much advice as he says there are already a lot of people trying to “throw their two cents in”. But he suggests that using a mechanical SLR is a good starting point, recommending a Pentax Spotmatic or a Nikon FM to make you more familiar with film’s slower style of shooting. Meanwhile, for those looking to get inside the darkroom, Rann can’t help but shout-out fellow Melburnians, The Fox Darkroom & Gallery, whose setup and welcoming attitude is ideal for newbies looking to learn.
“In the future, I’d love to see a lot more collaborations and people working together to produce work that pushes the boundaries and moves photography in all kinds of different directions.”
With analogue photography coming on leaps and bounds in Melbourne in recent years, some have questioned the best way to keep the photographs and therefore the medium feeling fresh. To this, Rann hopes that bringing the community closer together will lead to a host of new concepts and projects. “In the future, I’d love to see a lot more collaborations and people working together to produce work that pushes the boundaries and moves photography in all kinds of different directions.”
You can get a hint of this philosophy by taking a quick glance at Halide Supply’s social media, which often promotes the work of those processing at the photo lab, as well as other interesting projects taking place around town. Showing the lighter side of working in a shop, there are also frequent Instagram Stories of Gong playing it up for the camera – something that Rann can’t get enough of. “Gong’s famous now! I could just record him all day and get a laugh – he could have his own TV show,” Rann says.
“[W]e don’t want to just be a lab that only develops film and sells cameras because it can get a bit dull. We want to be more involved and just share interesting peoples’ stories.”
Outside of social media, Halide Supply is also interested in producing stories that highlight some of Melbourne’s photographic legends. Back in December, they released a 17-minute documentary on the life and career of Hiroyoshi ‘Yoshi’ Nagami, a worldly Japanese camera repairman who migrated to Australia in 1990. Nagami is a cult figure in the city’s photographic scene with his shop having a stellar reputation for being able to fix or service just about any Japanese-made camera.
“It was a great honour to have heard Yoshi’s story about his travels and work – he’s just a highly skilled man who has used his talent to see the world and live in so many places. I could have talked to him all day,” Rann says. “We really want to focus on content like this – we don’t want to just be a lab that only develops film and sells cameras because it can get a bit dull. We want to be more involved and just share interesting peoples’ stories. But you can imagine how demanding running a film lab is, especially having such a fast turn around time, but we’ll be working on some new stories soon.”
Halide Supply might have only been open for a relatively short few months, but they’ve wasted no time building a strong community as the city’s photographers have sought out the latest photo lab on the block. Rann believes the business has hit it off so quickly thanks to how the founders’ compliment each other’s skills.
For instance, Rann is swift to credit Emil with building a ‘foolproof’ ordering system that has saved everyone involved a huge headache. What’s also clear is that Halide Supply’s easy-going vibe has immediately attracted scores of like-minded photographers who are keen to get involved with Melbourne’s film photography community.
“We’ve built a strong following so far and we’re so pleased that people trust us with their work. We get all types of people coming in to share their work with us,” says Rann.”