9 undeveloped rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 shot by rock and roll photographer Joe Sia
In 2016 I purchased 9 rolls of film on Ebay shot by legendary rock and roll photographer, Joe Sia. The film came from a former photo lab operator in Bridgeport Connecticut, who processed and printed much of Joe Sia’s work. According to him, in July of 1998 Joe Sia gave him 40 rolls of film to process, but instructed him to only process a few at a time because he couldn’t afford to have them all done at once. Many of those rolls had been processed over the course of a few years. Sadly Joe Sia suddenly passed away in 2003, and several rolls of unprocessed film remained. The film sat in the lab processors fridge for many years until he decided to sell them off in 2016. Out of the 14 rolls left, I was fortunate enough to get 9 of them. Joe Sia hand wrote the name of each band shot on that roll, along with the ASA number if he pushed the film, many of which he did since he was shooting in very low light conditions. Only one roll of film had a date, “Yankees 82”. But judging by the style of each of the Kodak Tri-X canisters, I knew most of these were early to mid 80’s.
I’ve processed a lot of found film, but these made me very nervous, knowing what was on them and the possibility of potentially developing these incorrectly and losing some incredible images. Turns out, it was extremely easy. Kodak Tri-X is a hearty film. I stuck with the ASA that Joe had written on each canister and used the standard developing time and temperature for each. I processed each roll of film individually in Kodak HC-110, which is what I use for pretty much everything. The results were pretty incredible. Many of the images look like they could have been shot last week. The only 2 rolls that didn’t have the best results were the Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh rolls. Not because of the age of the film or process, but mainly because of the very dark conditions Joe was shooting in at these particular shows.
Even though the rolls were marked with who was on them, there were a couple of surprises. After pulling the Loverboy film out of the developing tank and examining the negatives, I was shocked to see that about half the roll was actually photos of the metal band Quiet Riot! The other rolls contained some incredible images of several other big names in the music world. The Ramones roll was the most exciting for me personally, being a big fan of theirs. Holding up those negatives for the first time and seeing Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Richie on stage, I knew I had found something special.
But the film labeled ARMS was the biggest surprise. They guy who sold these rolls on Ebay listed this one as being the group Atlanta Rhythm Section. After developing and viewing the negatives, I knew something wasn’t right. I wasn’t familiar with Atlanta Rhythm Section so I checked out some photos of them, and they weren’t matching up to the people on stage in the negatives. So I started searching Google and eventually searched for “ARMS concert”, and sure enough, there it was. I nearly fell out of my chair when I realized who was in these photos. In 1983, ARMS Charity Concerts were a series of charitable rock concerts in support of Action into Research for Multiple Sclerosis. The concert was particularly notable in the fact that it was the first occasion on which Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, each a former lead guitarist for The Yardbirds, had performed together on stage. This roll of film was hiding a serious piece of rock and roll history.