The Dark Room Birmingham: Analogue Film and Print Processing
Earlier in the year, I happened across a super little darkroom in Birmingham. I had one roll of film that I had taken with my Bronica ETRS, and I wanted to develop it. Truthfully, the last time I developed a film may have been 20 years ago. I was a location photographer, carrying films and polaroids to many locations, but since then, hardly at all. I met Dan and decided it would be a good opportunity to interview him about his darkroom and why he was still involved in the traditional analogue process.
I added one roll to my shoot and felt I wanted to return to a processing day. With that in mind, I purchased my Paterson DEV tank and found a suitable darkroom. Darkroom Birmingham was perfect for my first venture into the darkroom in over 20 years.
Welcome to Darkroom Birmingham: A Journey in Analogue Photography with Dan Burwood
Hello and welcome to Darkroom Birmingham! I’m Dan Burwood, and I’ve been running this unique space for about 11 years now. Nestled in the heart of South Birmingham at the Old Print Works in Balsall Heath, Darkroom Birmingham is more than just a facility; it’s a vibrant community hub for photographers and enthusiasts of traditional photography.
Our Mission and Services
At Darkroom Birmingham, our mission revolves around preserving the timeless art of analogue photography. We offer various services, including darkroom hire, where photographers can explore and practise traditional black-and-white animal photography. Our space has 5 or 6 enlargers, a purpose-built sink, and an archival 5-base print washer, ensuring a professional and authentic darkroom experience.
Engaging with the Community
One aspect that makes Darkroom Birmingham stand out is our deep engagement with the diverse and dynamic communities of South Birmingham. Over the years, we’ve hosted numerous exhibitions and projects, often focusing on documentary photography. These projects celebrate the art of photography and tell the compelling stories of the people and places around us.
My Journey in Photography
My own journey with photography began when I was just a child. I’ve always been drawn to documentary photography, capturing stories from places like Cuba, Syria, and Lebanon. I’m deeply rooted in Birmingham, using my skills to connect with the local community and create meaningful, independent work.
Recent Projects and Learning Opportunities
Recently, we’ve been focusing on portrait projects around Balsall Heath, offering street portrait studios and giving prints to participants. This initiative is particularly special in today’s digital age, where printed pictures are becoming rare.
For those interested in learning more about analogue photography, we offer courses covering various aspects of this beautiful art form. Whether you’re a beginner or returning to analogue photography after a long time, there’s something for everyone.
Dan Also Adds
My name’s Dan, and I’m a photographer. I started making darkroom photographs when I was about 10. I’ve made a career from the impulse to photograph and help others do so. I’ve been working between photography and education for more than 15 years. It’s odd as it’s not what I studied—what I’ve learned through and about making photographs I’ve done independently, albeit with the valuable influence of many inspiring people.
I don’t know why the darkroom drew me in, but there are some memories that align in the viewfinder of hindsight that can serve as landmarks:
I remember being scolded by my mom—I must have been about 4—for opening an Agfa 110 camera, not opening the back, opening the viewfinder by pulling the body—unbeknownst to me cocking the wind on—open, which meant that even if you didn’t take a photo, frame an image, or click that decisive aluminium lozenge when you closed the body, it would wind on anyway. Pump action. I might well be misremembering the reason for my telling off—it doesn’t sound like a great design feature—or perhaps I’ve supplied a technical reason for the simple fact that I’d been playing with something, not a toy, but I think I brought forward from that incident two essential qualities of photography: that a photograph is valuable; and that, at least for someone in the equation, a photograph is illicit, proscribed, powerful, and secret. It might seem an overstatement—I’ll decide later—but I think I’ve so long internalised or adopted these attitudes that I’ve come to not even question them or only examine them here, now. Hence a reverence for the black boxes, the shaded alchemy of silver halides waiting for the accession of their destiny, for the bellows and lenses, the brown odours, and the slipping into the light of little gloss slices of lost time.
Visit Us and Connect
If you’re interested in using our darkroom or participating in one of our courses, you can find more information on our website, Darkroom Birmingham, or follow us on Instagram at @darkroombirmingham. We’re always excited to hear from people who are passionate about analogue photography, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Thank you for joining me on this virtual tour of Darkroom Birmingham. Don’t forget to check out Silver Gum Type for more photography-related content. If you’re in the area, drop by and say hi; we’d love to share our passion for photography with you!
Dan also runs workshops for all those who wish to try their hand at analogue.
The three modules, as described in more detail below, are:
Module 1: Analogue cameras and fundamental principles of photography, including a large format ‘instant-ish‘ portrait shoot as an introduction to the analogue process;
Module 2: Developing B+W film to produce negatives;
Module 3: Introduction to Analogue Printing from B+W Negatives.