Film Never Die – Melbourne’s Polaroid Heart

Film Never Die is a stronghold for instant and film photography, situated in a little Carlton back alley. I met Hing Hshen some years ago at a Melbourne Silver Mine meetup, and loved his Polaroid cameras. Hing is a big part of sharing both the film and polaroid culture throughout Melbourne and the World!

Roll 227 Tmax400 MjuII147

Hing (left) and Mario (right)

To get there, take the 19 Tram from Elizabeth Street and get off at the Levers St / Royal Parade Stop #17.

You can find Film Never Die online here, and on Facebook here. You can work out the rest!

How Did Film Never Die get started?

logo“It’s something that Gary, my business partner and I started. I met Gary back at the Box Hill market about 4 years ago. The Impossible Project had just released their first batch of SX70 film, when I passed by their stall which was being run by Gary.

Gary and I started chatting and realised we had the same interests in film and polaroid, so I just sat down at his table for pretty much the rest of the day!

I helped him sell quite a bit of SX70, so I just asked him if we should start a business together. Back then, I was doing my own project called “Shutter Playground” selling just polaroid cameras and film – similar to what I am doing now, but we thought we should just start something.


Gary (left) and Hing (right)

Gary came up with the name “Film Never Die” which is pretty good!

Film Never Die’s mission is to continue to bring out polaroid and associated film culture in society. Back four years ago, everyone was saying “film is going to die”. When I started uni, I joined a group called Melbourne Silver Mine which made me realise there was still a bunch of film enthusiasts in Melbourne.

We thought “why not?” and started a business to try and bring film and polaroid to new people.

R0010058First we started on line, but then realised we wanted customers to come in and experience film. Like when you want to buy a car, you have to drive it first. People need more convincing and assurance that we are not here to “scam you off” – we are here for serious business.

The only thing we need to remind ourselves of is customer service always has to be very good, and the best way to experience this is by having a physical shop to come and visit. We are very friendly and homey – we want to talk about cameras and photography. We love people just dropping in to say “hi”.

We love helping digital photographers try film. We organise multiple photo walks each year for this. This year we have already done six! New Year’s Eve, St Kilda, two in Malaysia, one in Beijing, and during the White Night back in Melbourne. There are many more on the way, so keep in touch with us on Facebook or the website.”

MSP : The guys at Film Never Die are very patient and knowledgeable around Polaroid and film. If you need someone to help you get started, or get into hardcore old school Polaroids, this is the place to start. Hing and the team genuinely want to help you and this is their absolute priority over trying to sell you something. They are in business for love, not money! I get the feeling the business is more an excuse to hang out with film people than to pay off a mortgage… So get out there!

How Can a Digital Photographer Get Started in Film?

“Come and join a photowalk. Everyone will be carrying different cameras, which is a great chance for people new to film to try all kinds of film cameras and formats within a day or few hours. Sampling them all is a fun experience, and you can work out what you like.

R0010050Some people like Mario here (MSP : Mario also works in the shop!) like to shoot on the street and beach photos, for this he needs an SLR or something similar.

For someone who just wants to do street, I would probably get them to try a rangefinder – it is more quiet and more focused. Then you get some that want to try polaroids but not keen to spend $300 – $400 yet, so we recommend a Fuji Instax camera to get started.”

MSP : The range of Polaroids in stock is fantastic. They have a wide range, including some hacked ones with fisheye lenses. All of the cameras come with a warranty and have been checked and refurbed where necessary. Hing will take the time to explain each of the cameras to you, and help you make the right choice.

Hing, why do YOU still shoot film?

“For me, the process of shooting film is different. I like to shoot a lot of traditional film and Fuji instant film because when you look at people’s reaction it is totally different to shooting with digital. What they experience is “I didn’t know film cameras still existed anymore” and this starts a conversation. I can start talking about Film Never Die and explain what we do, what film culture is, and let them know there are a lot of film photographers still in Melbourne!

Roll 227 Tmax400 MjuII126My current project is “Instant Melbourne Story” – it’s about strangers on the street. It is a continuation of “Shutter Playground” from many years ago. I was collecting my own Mamiya Press Universal lenses at the time, and a couple in Elizabeth Street saw me and asked “what camera is that?”.

R0010054I just handed my camera over to them and told them to have a look and play with it. I ordered my food and we chatted for half an hour. So, before we finished I said “why don’t you let me take a photo of you two?”. In the back of my mind I started to think it was a pretty good idea.

Every year, I try to have a project to concentrate on, so the idea to have a hashtag #instantmelbournestory started here.”

MSP : Check out Hing’s stream on instagram. It is quite inspirational and features some very creative compositions. Here is a wonderful example. I have to get out and shoot with Hing sometime! There is probably a fair bit I could learn from him.

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 How do you approach people for Instant Melbourne Story?

“My experience is to just walk up to them, making sure you have a good smile and say you want to take a photo for them. Just show them your work first, like your Instagram posts. Roll 227 Tmax400 MjuII132A couple of weeks back, there was an American group of street dancers in front of the state library. I walked up to them, told them about Instant Melbourne Story and started taking pictures.

Once I pull out my camera, people stop and say “whoah, what the hell is that?!!”. They get curious and want to know more. Once you peel off the backing paper on some Fuji Instant, most are amazed at the picture quality. I say they can keep the picture, but just need them to pose again for another one for me. And that’s it!

Everyone loves free stuff, so if you give them an instant photo they get a lot of benefits. They have experienced film and realised it is pretty good. For me, it is a blessing to have shared instant film with them.”


Hing and his beloved Mamiya


MSP : Hing has shared some great tips. You can read more about asking strangers for portraits here.  Don’t regret not asking someone for a portrait – what’s the worst thing that can happen? They will say “no”… and that isn’t so bad, is it? Hing has a really great manner which is polite and friendly. Hmmmm, that kind of approach usually works in a whole range of situations!

 Where did your love of Instant Photography start?

“Back at Uni, I had a friend called Flanagan – he was the one who introduced me to an SX-70 camera – everyobody was just throwing them out as Polaroid had gone bankrupt. No one wanted to buy film anymore, so you could pick up an SX-70 for $90 or $100. Six months later, The Impossible Project announced Polaroid was here to stay. I have supported them since then.

R0010056 The first few batches of film The Impossible Project released were not that great, but now in their fourth year the films are doing very well.”

MSP : I was lucky enough to visit The Impossible Project HQ in New York on a work trip last year. You can read about it more here. The Impossible story is a fantastic example of people having a dream and bringing it to the world.

Favourite Camera?

Roll 227 Tmax400 MjuII144“At the moment? Weekends, I try to carry my Instant Mamiya Press. The good thing about it, it is big enough that people see the camera instantly. It’s how I can start conversation with them when I am on the street.

If I am on a photowalk I will either carry my Leica M5 or MP, with a 35mm lens. The MP is quieter, and better designed. The M5 is easier to grip, and I always like oddball cameras, so the M5 is the best! I used to shoot with 50mm lenses, but now I love the 35mm F2.

Tell us a little more about yourself.

Monday to Friday, I am a marketing co-ordinator, working on Collins Street. At Uni, I studied marketing and advertising at RMIT. That’s where I started my camera passion, working part time during study. My first camera was a Pentax SP. I bought it at Peony Gardens near Melbourne Central.

At Film Never Die we love film and love cameras. Come and hang out with us sometime!”

MSP : Hing and the team at Film Never Die have a great little store. Get out of the house and visit them. As well as instant film and polaroids, the guys have some quirky gear for sale as well. I spotted this little gem hiding on the table.

An Olympus Mju II new in box! Woot! There was also a Hexar RF on the table, but I just couldn’t quite work out how to justify the purchase… I nearly missed the Mju on the table and accused Hing of hiding the little fellow…

Here we are finishing up my delightful visit…

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2 Responses to “Film Never Die – Melbourne’s Polaroid Heart”

  1. Fantastic post! I must remember to visit if I’m in the area.



  1. Notebook Project – Discarded Objects | Inconspicuosity - September 9, 2015

    […] Check out more of the polaroid goodness here. […]


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