Yesterday I had my first session printing at the new Old Laundry Darkroom, a new community space run by Made in Roath.
When Ffotogallery moved from Chapter in February 2018, I found myself without dark room facilities for the first time since taking up photography again about four years ago. Thanks to friends, I was able to digitise the negatives I had, and continue to work on my photos using my computer. I also bought developing kit and continued to develop a few films at home. As the only place dark enough is the toilet at night time, this proves pretty challenging during the summer months.
Without a darkroom, I found that my enthusiasm for my photography waned, and the space was taken up with my Lino cut and silk screen projects which have been a great diversion and allowed me to work with wonderful people at both the Cardiff Print Workshop and Printhaus. Long may those associations continue.
However how did it feel getting back to dark room photography yesterday? It was a shock to realise how much I had missed it! The truth is that for all my conviction that losing these facilities enabled me to learn new digital skills, it is just NOT THE SAME!
There is a magic to being in a darkroom and seeing the prints appear out of the red gloom. It is a physical process – a slow one. In three hours I made four prints. It is more meditative – and in yesterday’s case – more collaborative. Instead of working privately at my computer, I was in a space with Mike – also printing his own work. We took to taking our test strips and prints into the light at the same time – and discussing the pros and cons of where to go next. Mike is clearly a more accomplished printer than me, and so I got to learn a couple of new things. However our work is very different and ultimately the artistic decisions we take are our own.
The prints are better too. I can’t put my finger on it, but the photos have more punch. The blacks are blacker and the pictures are less – well – flat. I didn’t realise that without the darkroom, I had stopped focussing on the changes at Central Square. Well now I’m back on track and can’t wait for my next session!