There are many reasons why people may want to develop their own film: for some, it allows them to fully appreciate their art, for some, it puts them fully in control of their workflow, and for others, like me, it's pretty much a cost saving measure — if you don't count the cost of my time. Regardless of the reasons for doing this yourself, the labour of the entire process can sometimes be very rewarding, especially, when you take your freshly developed rolls out of the tank (or whatever you use) for the first time. Your experience becomes even more amplified, when some significant time has passed between when you shot the rolls, and when you're developing them. You're hit with shots that surprise you, and you wonder: did I really take those? And when you finally scan, or make prints, a true sense of finality hits you, and your confidence and self worth increases. Of course mistakes are made, and when they happen, we just accept them for their quirks and consider them happy accidents.
I've been developing my own film ever since I started shooting analog cameras. And although I consider myself to be a very curious person, it seemed, as far as film development went, I had not really taken any time to properly find out — not to even talk about understanding — how the entire film development process works. To get started, all I did was to purchase a kit, follow the instructions, and when I was successful with a few attempts, I deviced a workflow that sort of made things a little easier. This, however, changed a few days ago when I pulled a roll of film out of my development tank, just to find an empty, eerie looking plastic strip. I was somehow in shock. What happened? My first action was to blame myself: did I not spool the camera properly? I started feeling really bad because, I had made similar spooling mistakes a couple times earlier, and lately I am extremely careful to prevent it from happening again. While blaming myself, though, I noticed something very weird about the film; it just didn't look right. Normally when film is developed, there should be some markings on the side identifying the film, and in some cases the frame numbers. This particular roll was however completely blank.
Totally confused by my observation, I started going through a list of things I felt could have gone wrong. I asked myself a lot of questions. Was the film expired? Did I use the right chemicals? This bugged me so much I was literally pulling out my hair. Then, I decided to systematically walk through all my requirements and steps. This is when I realized the chemicals I was using were quite old. I clearly remembered mixing them, using them for a few rolls, and leaving them to stand unused for almost twelve weeks. I made a few google searches, and I started reading about the film development process. I learned a lot. I learned there were different film development processes for different kinds of film. I learned that the process I had been using all along was the C-41 process, and to be finding that out only after a mistake should really tell you how I approached the task of developing film at home.
So, as I found out, what really happened to my film was that the developer had gone bad from standing unused for all those weeks. And so, when I put the film through it, it didn't react with the exposed parts of the film, which meant the blix just washed everything off the film roll — even the information the manufacturer put on the edges. If you find yourself confused about this explanation, I'd implore you to read on the C-41 development process, the process used for colour negatives. The film shooters collective blog has a very good article on it. Anyway, I thought I should share this for anyone who may run into this somday. Happy developing!