Optichrome history in film
In 1963 Britain, thousands of us were driving Austin Minis, the Beatles released their debut album, the lava lamp was invented, and digital print was a far-flung thing of the future. In the midst of this burgeoning Britain and a rapidly changing print industry, Ken Stephens founded Optichrome in Woking. Utilising his long history in the field, Stephens’ company began making high-quality film and plates with the most progressive machinery of the day.
Outgrowing a former dental surgery on Chobham Road and expanding on Maybury Road in the 1980s, Optichrome has experienced nearly 6 fruitful decades in Woking. We’ve seen the advent of contemporary technology, an entire revolution in the industry, and all manner of the weird and wonderful equipment that came with it. Hundreds of employees, thousands of happy clients, and plenty of bizarre fashion choices have all come through Optichrome’s factory, and been documented along the way.
In December 2016, while looking through an old collection of photographs, we stumbled upon a box filled with once-beloved Super 8 cine film reels. Curiosity piqued, we sent these to a specialist to be converted to a digital format. The result is a treasure trove of glimpses into the industry, technology, landscape, fashions, and friendships of a bygone Woking.
We are delighted to be able to share this fascinating discovery in a series of videos and blogs over the next 12 months, each filled with never-before-seen footage that takes us back into the history of Optichrome, Woking, and British manufacturing.