Analog: Airport Security

December 13th, 2010
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Tammi and I landed back home in New York yesterday from Hong Kong. I’ve got plenty to post about and hope to get them flowing out of there next week or two.
Over the last couple weeks, we’ve been on 10 flights through six countries and dealt with countless different stages of airport security. Ever since I started shooting film, one of the biggest potential hassles has been dealing with airport security.
X Rays can severely damage the emulsion on film in a way that can totally screw your images. Now, the first thing any screener will say is that it’ll only affect film that’s faster than ISO 800 or even 1600. What none of them understands is that slower film isn’t invulnerable to X Rays, it’s just that it takes more passes to do the same damage because it’s less sensitive.
I’ve read that it takes five passes to damage 100 speed film the way one pass damages a faster roll. Given that we’ve passed through maybe a dozen security checkpoints on this trip, the hazard is still there.
In one of the few compliments I’ve ever really considered about the TSA, I will say that they invariably will do a proper manual swab of my film without giving me a hard time.
Less so in Japan, above, where the security guy at Narita insisted on opening up and visually inspecting each of my 20+ rolls. In the end, it’s better than the Cambodian guard who insisted that I put my one roll of 1600 speed film in the x-ray because the sign said it was ‘film-safe.’ I haven’t shot it yet, so we’ll have to see how it comes out when I get home.

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