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Flying With Film: Are Airport Security X-Ray and CT Scanners Safe? The ULTIMATE Test!

1/18/2024 Matt 0 Comments

Do airport security scanners damage film? Is it true, that X-ray scanners are safe for films up to 1600ISO? The new CT (computer tomography) security scanners - do they ruin film at any ISO? Is 35mm film safer to take through scanners than 120? Do X-ray protective bags work? Should we insist on hand-checking, or stop being paranoid?

Film photography has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years, with many photographers drawn to the unique aesthetics and tangible nature of analog photography. However, the joy of shooting film can turn into a nerve-wracking experience when it comes to traveling with your precious rolls of film.

 Lina Bessonova, film photographer, decided to delve into the complexities of airport security checks and their impact on film. In a challenging and ambitious experiment, Lina took us along on her journey to test the safety of film in the face of X-ray and CT scanners.

The Quest for Film:

Lina's journey begins with a quest for film at FOTOIMPEX, a renowned analog supplies distributor in Berlin. Armed with a variety of films, including color and black-and-white options, Lina prepares for a series of security checks to evaluate the impact on her beloved rolls.

Airport Scanner Experiment:

In a captivating video, Lina takes us through her intense experience of passing through airport security six times at Berlin Brandenburg Airport, followed by CT scans at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. The experiment involves exposing different films to varying levels of X-ray and CT scanner passes, all with and without protective bags.

Challenges and Frustrations:

Lina candidly shares the challenges and frustrations she faced during this experiment, including uncooperative security staff, questionable airport policies, and the loss of valuable film due to CT scanners. Her recount of incidents, such as being questioned by security personnel and losing 20 rolls of film, sheds light on the struggles many film photographers face while traveling.

Protective Measures:

In an attempt to shield her films from the potentially damaging effects of CT scanners, Lina creates lead-lined containers. However, even with these protective measures, the power of CT scanners proves formidable, causing damage to the film.

Film Damage Findings:

Lina meticulously analyzes the impact of X-ray and CT scanners on various films, considering factors like sensitivity, protective bags, and the type of scanner. Her findings reveal that CT scanners, in particular, pose a significant threat to film integrity, with visible base fog, color shifts, and grain distortion, especially at higher ISOs.

Conclusion and Recommendations:

In her conclusion, Lina emphasizes the importance of understanding the differences between X-ray and CT scanners. She dispels the myth that films under 1600 ISO are entirely safe, stressing that damage can occur even if it's not immediately noticeable. Lina recommends avoiding CT scanners whenever possible and advocates for informed strategies to protect film during airport security checks.

About Lina Bessonova:

Lina Bessonova is a Russian-born analog photographer and printer based between Monaco and Italy, owning a photo lab in Florence. Coming from a background of PR and Media Communications, she committed to her passion for film and graduated with an MFA in Photography degree in 2017, publishing her first book “At Home” the same year.  Let's Get Connected: | Twitter | Instagram

Image and video via Lina Bessonova