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Photo Lab Develops Film in Coffee

Each Roll Helps Four Malnourished Children


This year, 15 million children are expected to benefit from Vitamin Angels, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to delivering vitamins to children in vulnerable populations. Locally, Vitamin Angels in Santa Barbara and Specialty Color Services, a custom photography lab located downtown, are pairing up to help the cause.

Specialty Color Services now offers caffeinol film processing, which combines instant coffee and vitamin C to produce nostalgic black and white photographs. For every roll developed in coffee, Specialty Color Services is donating one dollar to Vitamin Angels. The partnership will continue as long as there is community support, according to Specialty Color Services co-owner Gabe Cano.

According to Vitamin Angels, one out of three children worldwide is malnourished. Twenty-five cents is enough to deliver vitamin A and other vital nutrients to one child for an entire year. These nutrients can prevent child mortality and blindness. Specialty Color Services, whose motto is “Photograph Your Love,” and Vitamin Angels are striving to battle malnutrition - out of love, they said.

According to Specialty Color Services owner Glen Hodges, the lab has developed 77 rolls of film in coffee since beginning the project two months ago. Specialty Color Services is the only photography lab that offers caffeinol processing that Hodges knows of. There’s been more emphasis on human connection than on the photography itself, Hodges said.

Although caffeinol processing is more labor intensive than standard developing processes, it is well worth the effort to Specialty Color Services. “The response we receive from our customers is our nourishment to keep going, even as we’re going into the busiest time of the year,” Cano said.

During economically challenging times, Hodges and Cano worked backward to ensure a successful business, according to Brittany Andrews, development assistant to Vitamin Angels. Instead of starting with profit, they start by putting positive energy into the community and inspiring people, Andrews said. “It’s very moving.”

Hodges and Cano said this project reminds them of the deeper purpose of their work. “Photographs are so much more than a commodity,” Cano said in a written statement. “They have the power to enhance lives in a meaningful and everlasting way. They teach and share. They help us develop our creativity and reach our potential. They enrich our lives. A blind child will never have that opportunity. We were encouraged to learn that just 25 cents per child per year can provide two high-dose Vitamin A capsules that will prevent blindness.”

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