A darkroom that’s full of Magic

Finally, the time had arrived on my photography course to leave our digital cameras at home and go back in time; to a magical place of analogue cameras, film, chemicals, red lights and dark rooms!

After having already completed an ‘Introduction to Fine Arts Black and White‘ short course back home in Sydney at Ultimo TAFE, I couldn’t wait to get back into the darkroom and start developing my own prints. I have always been particularly drawn to film photography and find that by taking an image through the whole process myself; from shooting it, processing, developing, printing, toning and mounting it creates a greater sense of achievement and pride than digital brings me.

Our very first lesson was a fun little experiment using pin hole cameras made from biscuit tins, in which we placed strips of photographic paper and went around college taking photos and then developing them in the darkroom. It was very hit and miss as you had to guesstimate how long to leave the shutter open for, which could involve your subjects having to stay still for minutes at a time! Here is my attempt at pinhole photography:

(as you can see, it was quite hard to stay still for two minutes, so the subjects are slightly blurry)

Pinhole photography attempt

Pinhole photography attempt

After that, the next thing we had to do, after shooting some rolls of black and white film was to create contact sheets from our processed film. I had two rolls of film that I had shot in both Paris and in London:

From there we were encouraged to practise the necessary skills and experiment using different types of photographic papers to print on (resin, cool & warm fibre based, ektalure etc) and try out techniques such as burning and toning etc.
Here are some photos that I printed using different papers and techniques:

Finally, as our major project for this unit, we had to print a series of eight photographs using out chose of paper and toner. We then also had to mount our pictures ourselves (either dry mount or window mount).
I decided to focus on images that I took in Paris, the places (station, cemetery etc) and architecture, printing them at 10″x8″. I decided to use a cool tone fibre based paper as it affords the image a slightly darker more striking image which would suit my images better. I also decided to tone my images in selenium, which partially converts the original silver in the image to silver selenide, giving them a purplish tint. This however, was easier said then done as selenium is extremely dangerous and I needed to wear gloves and a mask whenever using the chemical (as did anyone else in the room!). I used ‘ice white’ coloured mount board to mount my pictures using a window frame.

Here are my eight final images: (one of my images I actually gave to a friend for her birthday, so the image is not the actual print I did myself)


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