I felt a real adrenaline rush in the darkroom once more. I immersed the film in the developer, agitating it gently, watching as the images materialised on the film strip; the wait, the anticipation, and the thrill of seeing the photos for the first time was something digital photography could never emulate.
Analog photography seemed like a long road back but the fashion and photography world knows me for my sometimes stunning digital photography and for capturing moments that seem to transcend the fabric of reality itself. However, in a bold and surprising move, in 2023, I decided to venture into uncharted territory once again by returning to the roots of photography — embracing film and the time-honoured process of developing in a darkroom.
In an age dominated by the immediacy and perfection of digital photography, it seemed almost anachronistic to revisit a process many see as outdated, laborious, and unpredictable. Yet, the allure of unpredictability and the rawness of film drew me back to analogue photography once again to see if I was till in the fast lane and if the techniques I had developed were still there.
It began as a spark, an underlying itch to break free from the perfection of pixels and immerse himself in the immersive process of manual photography and darkroom development. I seemingly yearned to feel the weight of a film camera again, the anticipation of loading the film, and the excitement of not knowing exactly what I had captured until the film was developed. So many variables which only skill can tame, whereas with digital, most of the equipment does it for you. In the darkroom, however, there is no room for error.
The first steps were challenging. The process was so natural at one time, working on clients’ shoots and location shoots, processing all of my monochrome negs and prints. Transitioning from digital to analogue photography was akin to switching from a modern sports car to a vintage roadster. The slow and steady pace of the film replaced the comfort and speed of digital.
The film process was in a darkroom I had found in Birmingham called Darkroom Birmingham (interview coming soo with the owner), meticulously set up with the right equipment. The safelight bathed the room in a soft, red glow, casting a comforting, other-worldly atmosphere. The developer, stop bath, and fixer lined up, the enlarger towering in the corner. The film, carefully loaded onto the reel, was ready to reveal its secrets. I mixed the chemicals but in a loose way without the meticulous process, I was used to for some reason.
I felt a real adrenaline rush in the darkroom once more. I immersed the film in the developer, agitating it gently, watching as the images materialised on the film strip; the wait, the anticipation, and the thrill of seeing the photos for the first time was something digital photography could never emulate. Even though I had not used a light meter, I transferred the readings on my FUJI GFX50S to the film camera I used, the Bronica ETRS.
In this move back to analogue, I wasn’t just revisiting a bygone era of photography; I began was exploring a new realm of creativity which is much needed today. Each developed film brought an element of surprise, each print a unique piece of art, unrepeatable and singular.
My first processed film and images were a testament to a transition, raw yet captivating, imbibed with an authenticity that digital images often lack. They showcased a different facet of monochrome creativity, a depth of perception that was subtly enhanced by the grain and texture of the film.
In delving into film and darkroom processing, I bridged the gap between the digital and analogue worlds, proving that true artistry lies in the ability to adapt and evolve, to embrace the old and the new in equal measure. My journey back to the film has been a testament to a passion for authenticity and a bold move in an industry that often forgets its roots.