In early 2017, Racquet Studio returned from a 14 day stint in Newcastle, shooting 8 campaigns for six brands. It was one of the most taxing expeditions Racquet Studio had been on, and while the majority of the team shot film, the brand had not yet set up an in-house lab. Running against the clock, Racquet pooled their development and scanning into a ‘quick and easy’ basket and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the results cost the brand, the photographers and all members involved a lot of money, alongside a loss of respect in the industry and a general caution sign lingering above their heads. Racquet realised they had no one to blame but themselves, promptly getting the company’s first V800 flatbed scanner and enough Paterson tanks, chemicals and thermometers to handle the next expedition on their own. The team figured if mistakes were going to be made, they might as well be held accountable for them.
In March of 2017, Racquet Studio left for Noosa with a newly formed ‘film’ division supplying portable developing and scanning services. Over the 12 days the photographers completed campaigns for Wrangler Denim, Arnhem, Zulu & Zephyr, Viktoria+Woods, Bassike and more. Meanwhile, the team developed in half cut Sprite bottles in the kitchen sinks of hotel bathrooms, drying the negatives in the shower of the hotel room and scanning them on the coffee table in the living room. The process was a throwback to the golden days of film, the days where a photographer’s darkroom would be packed into a suitcase and taken on the road, opened and closed as the canisters were polished off. By no means was it pretty, but it taught the team how to develop in the least favourable conditions on the planet. If they could produce national campaigns in hotel bathrooms, what could they do with an actual lab?
Upon returning, the team began ideation on opening the film lab to the public. Expansion was fast, and the customer growth rapid. As rolls came in, the venture quickly outgrew the small space it was operating out of, and Shop 6/608 Brunswick Street, New Farm became Racquet’s new HQ. With the photo agency and film lab elements of the brand successfully merged, management could focus on growing the brand in the ways it deemed necessary, while providing pro-grade development for consumers and still maintaining a strong presence in the Australian photo agency scene.
Just six months later, Racquet has turned into Australia’s largest analogue-dedicated lab, gallery, store and showroom, with unprecedented growth in the film sector and support from some of the biggest film brands on the planet. The model – which involves a focus on quality over quantity – lends itself to the true aficionados of film, those less worried about turn around times and more worried about a final product they’ll remember for years to come. As Racquet grows, it promises to keep this brand principle, knowing full well that without it, it will well and truly become ‘just another lab’. And that’s one thing Racquet is not.