"I'm not a luddite. I have no problem with digital" - Photographer Richard Nicholson
"A print took two hours.. so at the best, we could do 16 prints a day. And that was a long day, it was probably like 10-12 hours" - UK Master Printer Roy Snell
Yesterday's Guardian UK online edition featured a story & video in their Art & Design section titled "The Dying Art of the Photographic Darkroom". The story covers artist Richard Nicholson's project where he sets out to photograph & document on video the last remaining working darkrooms in London. Principally featured is photographer and master printer Roy Snell, a master who's work I have admired for many years.
I still have my darkroom, still use it. The smell of fixer... watching in the dim glow of the safelight as the silver nitrate emulsion begins to produce the image projected from the enlarger a few seconds previously. The careful evaluation of the wet print, determining how to make it better, how to separate tones & shades of grey, black & white, where and how long to dodge & burn. Finally, after many repetitions, arriving at a satisfactory rendering of the image held in my mind's eye.
|My Enlarger/Printing Booth|
For almost twenty years, I operated the only commercial black & white lab on this island. Many of Maui's up & coming photographers spent time working long hours in the dark with me, developing & contact printing film, printing enlargements. Our days would start with assessing the quantities of film to be developed each morning and the print orders to be fulfilled, mixing & tempering chemicals for film, cleaning print trays and filling them with freshly mixed developer, stop bath & fix. Five days a week, eight hours each day we would stand in the dark, close quarters, hands wet, stacks of prints moving thru one chemical bath to the next as film reels washed in the gurgling agitation wash tube. Sean, Doug, Kyle, Bella and the rest of you... thanks for helping to keep things going back in the day.
Anyway, I'm feeling nostalgic after seeing this video... and just a bit guilty that I don't spend as much time in the darkroom these days. I too have embraced the digital workflow. There's still a bunch of bricks and boxes of film in the studio freezer. Time to thaw a few, pull out the time-worn Hassie & Sinar and get back in there.
You can find the whole article at the UK Guardian site here. You can read more about Richard Nicholson's project "Analog", currently on exhibition at London's Riflemaker Gallery in London Here. Thanks to Prison Photography blog for bringing the story & video to my attention.
Now here's the video, embedded here with permission from the Guardian UK.