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Film hand check

Just wanted to put everyone on notice of potential ass clown TSA employees at the airport in Savannah, Georgia.

I was flying back to Portland and asked them to hand check my film at the security gate. I was there 30 minutes early.

They proceeded to hand inspect EVERY roll of film. That was over 300 exposed and unexposed rolls of Tri-X and Kodakhrome 64. While checking the film, they swabbed the bags.

Usually the process is a lot simpler and faster. In Germany, they just swabbed the bag; at Dulles Airport (before flying to Iraq last September), they did the same. This is another example of uneven standards of checking film at US airports.

I’ve already notified the TSA about this and dropped dimes on the employees. It probably won’t change any sort of procedure but it was my only recourse.

The biggestlesson learned? Check in at least an hour early at the Savannah airport.


by Bill Putnam at 2006-07-02 21:20:28 UTC (ed. Mar 12 2008 ) Portland, Oregon , United States | Bookmark | | Report spam→

That is ridiculous, that is just harassment. Last time I went through an airport I had the security guy grab my empty waist bag, tear it off me and chuck it, practically yelling at me, “you cant wear that here!” Ha! Naturally I gave him shit right back, but I was so mad that I forgot to retrieve the little bag. No real loss, but really what a bunch of jerks. This airport security thing is such a crock.

by Jon Anderson | 02 Jul 2006 21:07 | Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic | | Report spam→
About a year ago I flew to Paris and at both O’hare and in Paris, but not in Germany they swabbed every roll of film. Glad I gave up that film stuff.

by doug mcgoldrick | 02 Jul 2006 22:07 | chicago, United States | | Report spam→
hahahaha i share the same sentiments guys… why don’t you guys get an xray bag??? :)

by Paolo Picones | 02 Jul 2006 23:07 | Manila, Philippines | | Report spam→
X-ray bags don’twork here. The security folks have to check the film.

Jon, complete harrassment. I’m not giving up film because of this incident. But man…

by Bill Putnam | 03 Jul 2006 00:07 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
I flew back to the US from Narita, Japan to Washington Dulles on last Tuesday. Even though I was prepared to submit my fresh unexposed Velvia 100 and 100F (only 40 rolls) to X-ray at Narita, I did ask for hand check. I was lucky because I was able to go through the least crowded line. I told them that I had “1600 film” (just one roll, but Japanese is unspecific about the number of films) and they obliged. I had all the rolls (43 to be exact, including one exposed roll) out of plastic canistors and in two clear plastic bags.

I’ll find out day after tomorrow how it is at Washington Dulles with approximately the same number of rolls. I won’t expect any hand check at Heathrow where I change flights to head to Vienna.

My plan is to buy additional films in Vienna as needed. I am a little person and I can’t carry 300 rolls of 35mm.


by Tomoko Yamamoto | 03 Jul 2006 00:07 (ed. Jul 3 2006) | Baltimore, Maryland, United States | | Report spam→
When I asked for a hand check in Dakar, they sternly accused me of being afraid to put my film through the x-ray because I must be trying to smuggle hashish….???!!

by Mark Manger | 03 Jul 2006 01:07 | Denver, United States | | Report spam→
i agree with everyone that it’s complete harassment.. i’ve never experienced having trouble when i say “hand check please” to those xray dudes.. if those incidents happenped to me we’ll have to go to the world of anarchy.. they should get a special line for us photogs in airports hehe

by Paolo Picones | 03 Jul 2006 02:07 | Manila, Philippines | | Report spam→
i have found that it you put your film in CLEAR PLASTIC big ziplock bags, it makes the whole process go a lot faster. I get rid of all boxes and canisters, (i do leave the 120 in the foil) and then put it all in those clear bags. They can see it all right away. Psychologically also i think it helps convince them of your openness and cooperativeness.
frankly for me since the TSA it has been a lot easier, i ask for hand inspection and they do it. whereas in the old days they always used to insist on putting it through the x-ray machine. and you know what, let them inspect it. as long ago as the 1980s i had a woman inspector in Hong Kong open every single roll of 120 film just a little bit. She ripped open the foil wrapper on each one, made sure it was a roll of film, and went on to the next. Something like 80 rolls.
if they insist on the X-ray machine and absolutely won’t relent, let them do it. chances are your film will survive one or two passes. it’s cumulative passes if you’re hopping on and off airplanes that will really fry it. so say you’re on a long trip and you go through ten airports — and only at one of them did they absolutely demand to x-ray, while the 9 others hand-inspected — you’ll be OK.
and to you digital dudes: it takes longer for this computer that i’m writing on to boot than it does to inspect 50 rolls of film, when they ask you to turn on your laptop!

by [former member] | 03 Jul 2006 04:07 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Clear plastic ziplock bags are definitely the way to go and yep you can get away
with leaving 120 in the foil. The best one that happened to me though was I left
my B/W AGFA 100 and 400 in the black cannisters and the two people that searched them
put all the 100 in the cannisters marked 400 and vice versa, which as I had about 80 rolls I didn’t
carry all of it at once to the locations (I had to divide it up into separate bags to take as
necessary) So imagine my mood when on the first day shooting (after about 24hrs travelling
no sleep and I had left a lot of my film at my base) I was on the border of Oecussi and West Timor
with absolutely none of the film that I thought I had packed for that trip. So even though I had
clear plastic ziplock bags and clear plastic cannisters for tranny and 120 in foil they still insisted
on on causing me trouble ultimately… but should I tell you about the time at one weigh in where
on a commercial flight they made me take off my jacket and weigh it in as hand luggage?

by lisa hogben | 03 Jul 2006 10:07 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
“let the train take the strain”

by Michael Bowring | 03 Jul 2006 10:07 | Belgrade, Serbia | | Report spam→
Well, The FAA’s ‘standard operating procedure’ does say they will hand inspect film when asked…but the guards can really do what ever they want…I asked for a hand inspection, and this litle weasel, argued with me….and then really held me up just for fun and searched every little thing….that was in Boston. Overseas, who knows….but most of the time not a probem.

by [former member] | 03 Jul 2006 11:07 | Boston, United States | | Report spam→
Apart from the putting the actual film cannisters in a clear zip lock, if I am travelling with a woman (and depending on the country), I nearly always ask my female companion to check the film through. We walk through together, but as if we don’t know each other. In my experiences, it has always been easier for the female to get a hand check of the film than for me to do it. Don’t know why – maybe I look like a crim when I have a beard or the guys at security rather a smiling woman asking them…but hey, it works for me, so that’s what counts!

by Thomas Pickard | 03 Jul 2006 11:07 | Male', Maldives | | Report spam→
Oh,the best was the agent that asked me “Is this a camera?” as she held up my nikon. Also, in Boston. I think this was before the TSA.

by [former member] | 03 Jul 2006 11:07 | Boston, United States | | Report spam→
Have run into film and x-ray problems with TSA in Milwaukee, Chicago, SFO, Albuquerque, LAX, and their international equivalents in Phuket and Hong Kong.
I cut my hair, wear clean-ish clothes, I show up early to screenings … but no. A few dozen rolls of 120 film is always a hassle. My guess is screeners think “Well, that shore don’t look like REAL film.”

by [former member] | 03 Jul 2006 12:07 | Kuching, Malaysia | | Report spam→
Large clear zip lock bags are key as well as taking them out of the boxes and canisters. I shoot 220 and carry it with me everywhere. The zip lock bags keep things organized and are of course handy for labeling your exposed film and keeping them dry. I also double bag them in op-tech x-ray bags. You can fit over 100 roles of 120 /220 in one even though they claim only 70 roles of 35mm:


This seems to work if you have to run them through a machine as I haven’t had any problems yet, but I always politely ask for a hand check first.

by [former member] | 03 Jul 2006 15:07 | Kyiv, Ukraine | | Report spam→
I came to Vienna, Austria by way of the Washington Dulles and London Heathrow Airports. I was able to get a hand check of my 40plus rolls at Dulles, but I did not even try at Heathrow. At the former, asking for the hand check created an attention and TSA women scrutinized me and my backpack in which I carried lenses.


by Tomoko Yamamoto | 05 Jul 2006 17:07 | Vienna, Austria | | Report spam→
i believe that TSA policy is now to grant you a hand inspection if requested. obviously this can take a lot of time, but you should be prepared for this anyway considering all the stamps from sketchy countries you have in your passport. not to mention trying to explain that the late-model fully loaded Kalashnikov rifle is either an “antique firearm” or “legitimate booty of war.” seriously i do know a guy who somehow managed to get a 18th century musket back to europe, from afghanistan.
the bottom line is that if you show up with two computers, satellite phones, a flak jacket and helmet, 6 cameras, 10 lenses, and 200 rolls of film (and this is not an exaggeration although it sounds like one!), you should be early at the airport. Yes, the responsibility is with us! Now, airports should PROVIDE LUGGAGE CARTS INSIDE THE GATE AREA, that’s where i really take them to task if they don’t! Do they think that we are all business travellers with one briefcase and a copy of a financial journal jauntily tucked under an arm, as we dance on board a jet? No, forget the romance of air travel. Mules or donkeys is more like it.

by [former member] | 05 Jul 2006 23:07 | New York, NY, United States | | Report spam→
Let me get this straight… you asked for a hand check, and you’re mad because they did their job thoroughly? And some of the rest of you consider this harrassment? Even before the age of digital, it wasn’t too common for screeners to see hundreds of rolls of film at a time. Naturally they’re going to be curious and thorough. And please remember also that TSA screeners at smaller airports (such as Savannah) are well aware that the Sept. 11 attackers started their flights at smaller airports, so they are apt to be even more vigilant now than the screeners someplace such as Dulles. (And who uses the term “ass clown” and expects to be taken seriously, anyway?)

by Jonathan Ernst | 06 Jul 2006 03:07 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
I arrived at the security check point 30 minutes early. It should take that long to check the film. Sure, I do have passport stamps from Kuwait, Germany and France, sketchy sure but that shouldn’t warrant running finger tips along the canisters’ seems. Most airports I’ve gone through since 9/11, either domestic or international, or good to go about hand checks. Usually they inspect the bags through the zip-loc baggies then run a swipe. If there was ANY explosive residue on/in those canisters the swipe would’ve picked it up. I believe the 9/11 hijackers flew out of major airports around NYC so feeling a 6’5" 250 pound gringo is going to be a terrorist. Not saying it couldn’t happen but, seriously, what’re the chances?

What does my use of the term ‘assclown’ have to do with how serious I should be taken? I don’t question them doing their jobs. My issue is they almost made me miss my flight despite showing up with plenty of time AND a good attitude.

If there’s anything I learned about this is to develop my own film while I’m downrange. Thanks Alan for the kit suggestions in another topic.

by Bill Putnam | 06 Jul 2006 05:07 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Alan, You carry all that stuff? Maybe if you weren’t wearing the vest and helmet….just an idea…

Bill-you know they have to be PC…..those ‘little’ security guys want some power you know….get there early and they have plenty of time to jerk you around…get there late and see what happens!

by [former member] | 06 Jul 2006 10:07 | Boston, United States | | Report spam→
From the Wikipedia entry on Mohammed Atta: “On September 10, Atta picked up al-Omari from the Milner Hotel in Boston, Massachusetts, and the two drove their rented Nissan to a Comfort Inn in Portland, Maine, where they arrived at 5:43pm and spent the night in room 232 only to catch a flight back to Boston the following morning. Possibly this was done by the two men to clear airport security under less scrutiny in Maine than they would have faced at Logan Airport in Boston.”

The point is, they’re just doing their job… and 30 minutes probably isn’t “plenty of time” at a smaller airport nowadays…

by Jonathan Ernst | 06 Jul 2006 13:07 | Washington, DC, United States | | Report spam→
Putting this all behind us is one of the many reasons to make the switch over to digital.
When I was still shooting film ( 18 months ago) ) and had to carry 100 plus rolls of 35mm I took all the film out of the cannisters and boxes and used the clear zip lock approach.I broke these down into bags of 20-30 rolls so that each roll could be swabbed and replaced in an orderly stack. In addition, since hand check is not a certainty outside the USA, I would make up labels that said " Process at ASA 1600". If questioned that the film was actually asa 50 or asa 100 I would say yes but it is processed at 1600 at the lab. This worked every time….And as far as I am concerned I leave loads of time and still, even with digital, expect the worst at airport security check, assuming everything to be opened and swabbed. Its not personal and there are better places to save my emotional energy for offense. They can strip search search me for all I care. Three hundred rolls and you were there ONLY 30 minutes early??

by richard sobol | 06 Jul 2006 18:07 (ed. Jul 6 2006) | boston, United States | | Report spam→
Like I said in the previous post… I’ve showed up with the same amount of time and nearly the same number of rolls at Dulles and had no problems. Dulles as we know is a much big and busier airport. They’d look through the baggies, run a swipe over the bag and a few rolls and send me on my way. Savannah was obscenely stupid… like I said above: running finger tips around the seems at the cannisters’ top and bottom, swiping each roll.

Ok, so I was wrong about the departure points of the 9/11 hijackers, my bad. But I’ve been through that airport and its fairly good size.

by Bill Putnam | 06 Jul 2006 20:07 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Jonathon I agree that the airport security people are doing a job, but so are we.
I am polite and willing to be helpful (and BTW Thomas Pickard I am a woman and if
you had read my earlier post you would see it doesn’t make any difference) I show up
early for handchecks and I do everything in my power to comply to reasonable requests,
but it is like the citizen cop sometimes with these guys. They seem to have an attitude that
because I am a PJ that I am some sort of problem. I often feel people like this hold me
personally responsible for 9/11 and the death of Princess Di.
And really is that kind of attitude really necessary? I mean look at poor old Matt’s
appalling experience and now its going to cause him grief every time he gets on a flight.
If the woman had been, polite, professional and actually trained to do the job properly
it might have been a better outcome for everyone and perhaps she would be better able to
identify real risks with security.

by lisa hogben | 07 Jul 2006 15:07 | Sydney, Australia | | Report spam→
Lisa: :)))))…yoU go sister, im with U! :))))
o, and if we ever meet in an airport, would you carry my film for me? ;))))))))))))))))))…..
I’ll carry your 12-pack of Fosters! ;))))))))….cheers,bob

by [former member] | 07 Jul 2006 20:07 (ed. Jul 7 2006) | Toronto (home sweet), Canada | | Report spam→
I have tried to get film hand checked at Heathrow Airport but they refused to do it and started to view me suspiciously.
They hand checked film for me at Gatwick, but I had to be very polite and persistant. Any advice on dealing with security
at LHR?

by Gerard M Jefferson-Lewis | 23 Aug 2006 18:08 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I have tried to get film hand checked at Heathrow Airport but they refused to do it and started to view me suspiciously.
They hand checked film for me at Gatwick, but I had to be very polite and persistant. Any advice on dealing with security
at LHR?

by Gerard M Jefferson-Lewis | 23 Aug 2006 18:08 | London, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
I’m just happy to read you’re using K64 and Tri-X.

And by the way Heathrow is the worst.

by Paul Rigas | 23 Aug 2006 18:08 | Grants Pass, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Gerard, I haven’t been through Heathrow or Gatwick and I’m not making plans too in light of the draconian security measures there. My next trip will wing through Paris. Man, I love that town.

by Bill Putnam | 23 Aug 2006 19:08 | Portland, Oregon, United States | | Report spam→
Sorry to break it to you but post 9/11 it is pretty much standard proceedure for TSA employees to hand check EVERY roll of film. I have traveled quite a bit both domestically and internationally and even when I am carrying hundreds of rolls of film they open each container. Most of the time they are as annoyed but the process as I am but that’s the world we live in. I would give yourself at least an hour before your scheduled departure for inspection if you have a lot of film.

Last year flying out of Heathrow they didn’t even give me the option to hand inspect.


by [former member] | 23 Aug 2006 21:08 | NYC, United States | | Report spam→
Anyone out there know the airline representatives we might contact regarding clearing up these messes? It’s only been 10 years of this crap — hassles with film, gear, etc., not being able to check in equipment BECAUSE THEY WON’T PROMISE NOT TO BREAK IT! If they simply had a “fragile luggage” rack, with $15,000 insurance for the flight, we’d all be just fine, now wouldn’t we? I’d hand over my gear in an instant instead of lugging it around all the time. I really hate these guys.

by David Gross | 24 Aug 2006 11:08 | Istanbul, Turkey | | Report spam→
hey..as I am always with 120 I do the ziplock method and I have been told the rule is this – a visual check for tears in the package is required for any film in it’s wrapper, and a swabbing for any that is open/exposed. Seems reasonable to me, it does take extra time and for some reason I always, without exception get the patdown/holding of passport line. It just means this is part of my routine now, though I’d rather breeze through. I am flying in the next couple of days on a ‘buddy pass’ from a pilot; it will be interesting to see if this changes anything.

by [former member] | 24 Aug 2006 13:08 | Brooklyn, NY, United States | | Report spam→

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Bill Putnam, Producer. Bill Putnam
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Jon Anderson, Photographer & Writer Jon Anderson
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doug mcgoldrick, photographer doug mcgoldrick
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Paolo Picones, Manunyut Paolo Picones
Manila , Philippines
Tomoko Yamamoto, Multimedia Artist Tomoko Yamamoto
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Mark Manger, Photographer Mark Manger
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lisa hogben, Visualjournalist! lisa hogben
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Michael Bowring, photographer Michael Bowring
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Thomas Pickard, Photographer Thomas Pickard
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Jonathan Ernst, Photographer/Writer Jonathan Ernst
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Gerard M Jefferson-Lewis, Photographer, filmmaker & Gerard M Jefferson-Lewis
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