The Future Of Darkroom Work

on September 17, 2015

Seven years ago when I came to work in Camera Electronic I did not think I would be able to write that header now. The front of the shop still had a few film cameras and there was a rime of old enlargers around the top of the cabinets, but I could see that little was new nor was it likely to stay. I dedicated myself to learning the new digital age.

I miscalculated. As I type this blog post ( admittedly on a digital computer...) I can see shelves with darkroom chemicals, darkroom printing paper, developing tanks and kits, negative files, and a refrigerator full of fresh film. And every day people come in the front door, take away some of these goods, and pay us for them.

Darkroom work would appear to be going on.

We have supplied some new enlargers to schools that are admittedly basic overseas things that need a fair bit of adaptation for use in Australia - but all the rest of the stuff is perfectly usable. Australian dark is as good as US or UK dark - all you do is block up the windows and door and grope around.

Do the new users of old technology get what they expect from the experience? I hope they do - though I am not sure if they think they are going to find a Holy Grail in the wash water. They may, or may not - I do know that if they do not use enough of it they will eventually lose all their images to fading - I have found out my sins of omission with old negatives.

I cannot say whether the colour darkroom will come back - I suspect not. The technology that made it work was getting better and easier in the 80's and 90's and I lucked onto the last of the easy amateur gear and chemistry. Even than it was poisonous, irritating, and messy. Of course this also describes Christmas lunch with the rellies, but we will gloss over that. Colour printing - good printing - has advanced beyond belief with the advent of the digital inkjet printer and I do not think we gain anything by going back and sticking our fingers in the blix.

So - here's to the continuation of tradition in supply and usage. You cannot poison yourself dead or spend yourself broke on black and white darkroom work and an occasionally you will produce a masterpiece.