The Photographers Workshop was originally a darkroom and studio hire centre. We opened in 1982, and at that time we were the only privately funded darkroom hire centre in the country. Our ethos was access to equipment and access to knowledge. The equipment when we started was better than many colleges of photography had and our tuition was given freely and on a 121 basis. we later ran courses but the most important part of what we did was to teach everyone at their level and at the speed they wanted to learn. In the subsequent years we went through transformations due to the rise of digital. We no longer have darkrooms and our teaching is now exclusively through courses and weekend workshops. One of the best things about the Workshop was seeing the development (no pun intended or otherwise) of people and their technical skills. People would come with a desire to make pictures and we made that happen for them.
So I thought it would be a good idea to track down some of the photographers, both amateur and professional (some started as one and became the other) who used our darkrooms in the distant past.
Today I would like to introduce you to Jane Buekett. I consider her pictures to be some of the most beautiful and mature images. Taste is an interesting thing, what some love others hate, no don’t even think of Marmite this is much more important than that.
Jane was to be found working in the darkrooms every week, either in the evenings or on a Saturday, quietly going about making gems. As she quotes “I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Gary Winogrand
She has a blog with a small selection of the thousands of images she must have made and some of her writing which like her pictures is a joy to read if not always joyful. Here is a link to her blog
I asked those alumni who responded to my requests for pictures and words, pictures from the past as well as pictures from now. Here are some of Jane’s images and later her words. The older work shows first
“I photograph to find out what something will look like photographed.” Gary Winogrand
When I joined the Photographers Workshop in the early 1990s I knew nothing about black and white photography except that I wanted to do it. On my first evening Norman McBeath showed me how to load and process film, make a contact sheet and a basic print. He was kind and encouraging, the process was magical, and I was hooked.
The workshop was very male: rather spartan, with loud music playing and a constant teasing and banter between staff and regular customers. All day people would be calling in to chat or have a coffee. I sometimes felt the place was more like a drop-in centre than a darkroom. But it became somewhere I felt very much at home.
I took classes there, I learnt to print from evening after evening of working at it and getting advice from whoever was on duty. I became obsessed with making pictures, with the silver print, and, like Gary Winogrand, with photographing things to see what they looked like. I had exhibitions at the workshop. I met people who became a big part of my life, I developed a passion, I learned to see.
I liked those Saturday afternoons in the darkroom, wearing my horrible printing shirt stained with hypo, and my yellow rubber glove, when my prints would be sharing the developer with wedding photos, professional portraits, a snapshot of someone’s cat, an artist’s photograph of the moon. Often it was frustrating – trying to make exhibition-quality prints with other people poking at my fibre-based paper or contaminating the chemicals with dirty tongs.
Today I have my own darkroom. The music is more tasteful. There is no-one accidentally pouring stop into the developer. I don’t have to compete to get my favourite enlarger. But I miss having someone to ask, ‘Does this print look OK?’
Die bleierne Zeit
Trüb ists heut, es schlummern die Gäng’ und die Gassen und fast will
Mir es scheinen, es sei, als in der bleiernen Zeit
(Gloomy it is today, sleepy are the pathways and lanes and it seems as almost, we are, in the leaden times.)
Wish you were here
I hope you have enjoyed these and would like to see and read more, you can do so here