Melbourne’s Hillvale Photo Lab is a start-up specialising in bringing film photography back to life amid the online saturation of digital pictures. Hillvale collects and processes film left in dropboxes around the city. It then posts the results online for customers to download.

This week, Sydneysiders will have the same opportunity because a dropbox is being installed at the Australian Centre for Photography (ACP) in Paddington.

Hillvale’s Jason Hamilton and Andrew Johnson met at RMIT University in Melbourne while studying Graphic Communication. Hamilton had salvaged an old, colour-film processor from his job at a photo lab in rural Victoria. The pair realised its potential. “Once we transported the machine back to Melbourne and had it running – in a garage at first – we realised it could serve a purpose greater than our own needs,” says Johnson.

Patrons need only bring their completed film roll and fill out a form, before dropping it into a box at the reception. Development of a single 35-millimetre roll with scans will cost just $8. An equivalent service in Sydney’s CBD sets you back $35.95.

For the pair behind Hillvale, it’s the variety of time periods, subject matter and people represented in the negatives they develop that lends film photography its hidden and peculiar power. “The fact there's trust, whether conscious or not, for us to handle people's sometimes extremely private moments is flattering,” says Johnson. “We might scan negatives from the ‘70s one day, and process and scan pictures from a house party over the weekend the following day.”

As film labs become increasingly scarce and expensive, especially in Sydney, Johnson is grateful for the support of the Australian Centre for Photography. “To have our brand and service inside a space such as ACP is remarkable for us — the support for film photography is still very much alive,” he says.

The dropbox is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am–5pm and Sunday 12–5pm at the Australian Centre for Photography at 257 Oxford Street, Paddington. Drop bags are available at the counter.

See hillvale.com.au for more information.