Thoughts from the Darkroom

Over the last week I’ve been spending a bit of time in the university photography society’s darkroom, which is fully equipped for B&W development and printing, as well as C41 development. I already knew a bit about development, but had never actually done it until a couple of weeks ago. The satisfaction I felt at opening up the developing tank to a roll of negatives was an incredible feeling. I’ve shot a few rolls since, and went back to develop them as soon as I’d finished all my exams.

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This contact sheet shows the images from my second roll of film – a roll of Ilford Delta 100, shot on a Praktica MTL3. This post isn’t really about the images on this contact sheet – those I’ll talk about another time. Today I wanted to share my thoughts on the darkroom process itself.

I’m so used to sitting in front of a computer screen, keyboard and mouse in hand, and editing my images in Lightroom with music piped into my ears. I work really well in that environment, but sometimes it’s nice to get a change of pace, and the darkroom offered that. Development took about an hour in total, and for that entire time I was alone, in silence, with no other distractions. It was therapeutic. The end result is not a folder on a computer full of digital files, mere abstractions from the images they represent. Once you’re done with development you have a binder sheet of negatives you can hold up to the light – something which is still a novelty to me!

It’s such a tactile process, something sorely missing from the Lightroom experience I’m used to. The entire experience makes me almost want to switch over to B&W film photography entirely, and I can completely understand why many people love it so much. The jury is still out for me, but I am certain of one thing – I will be in the darkroom again.

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