Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

The last darkrooms

“Richard Nicholson spent three years photographing commercial photographic darkrooms in London. When he began his project in 2006, there were more than 200 thriving darkrooms dotted around the city; when he completed it in 2009, there were 12.”

The Photographers Workshop was one of the very first darkroom and studio hire centres to open in Britain. We established in 1982 and for about 20 years everything stayed the same and was simple. Then the change came and as we had to leave our beautiful old building in St Marys Road Oxford because of property developers we downsized to smaller darkrooms in a new home in Cave Street Oxford. As the use of our darkrooms reduced we increased our use of digital and then when property developers again moved us on we found our new home in Collins Street Oxford but had no space or need of darkrooms.Now as you will be aware we concentrate on our commercial photography and teaching.

In some ways it is sad that there has been such a loss of demand for film based image making but I think that digital is just another development in the history of photography. We have seen continual changes to equipment and processes throughout the life of photography and although I don’t refute the values of film it will eventually only have the nostalgia value of any of the old photographic processes mostly followed by those who admire and craft of image making. This article includes an interesting interview with Brian Dowling of BDI in London. He argues with great persuasion about the performance that is part of making a print in a darkroom.

“Making a complex print in the darkroom is physical activity and it is often accompanied by a burst of adrenaline as the printer races against the clock,” says Nicholson. “With digital, there is post-production interpretation, but it can’t be called a ‘performance’. Photoshop work is non-linear and is not time-restricted. And, once that work is done, each print is identical.”

 

 

 

 

Analog – review | Art and design | The Observer.

One response to “The last darkrooms

  1. charlotte Holmes December 30, 2010 at 11:47 am

    very interesting article keith; the debate has been re-ignited chez charlotte and chorley (heatedly)- and i thought we’d said it all already!
    you might like this:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2010/dec/16/artist-week-adam-fuss

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