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Photographers aim to show magic of the dark room to Instagram generation

Enthusiasts in Gospel Oak want 'carpet-bombing' camera phone users to see the creative proces

18 October, 2018 — By William McLennan

The darkroom facility set up at Burmarsh

A GROUP of enthusiasts are working to preserve the vanishing art of film photography from their darkroom in a former underground car park.

The team of amateurs and teachers have set up shop in a unit beneath a block of council flats in Queen’s Crescent in the hope they can entice others to share their love of traditional methods.

Known as “wet photography” – the process involves bathing film in chemical solutions to develop images.

Philip Grey, a photography lecturer, said that he has seen a shift over his 30-year career, with the rise of digital photography, camera phones and image-sharing platforms such as Instagram.

He believes that the painstaking process of developing images will help photographers hone their skill, as well as providing a form of “therapy”.

“In my teaching now I am working with people who have grown up in the digital age,” he said. “They just carpet bomb. Their process of photography is to take as many pictures as possible and one of them is going to be good. They are not thinking about it as a creative process, it’s just a visual diary. For me, I feel it is eroding and devaluing images.”

He added: “There is nothing like spending 90 seconds over a tray, watching an image coming up and engaging with that photograph. That image imprints itself on you, in a way you can’t really experience digitally.”

Mr Grey, who lives in Kentish Town, is working with amateur Dennis Yandoli, a former family therapist, and photographer Verdi Yahooda. They hope to capitalise on a growing interest in analogue, as opposed to digital, technology, which has seen the resurgence of vinyl records.

Much of the equipment was gifted by a London university that had decided to close its student darkroom. The kit spent a year in storage while they searched for a suitable location, with further donations from professional photographers Judah Passow and Nadav Kander.

Verdi Yahooda, Brett Rogers, director of the Photographers’ Gallery, Philip Grey and Dennis Yandoli

The project, called Darkroom, is now open in Burmarsh Studios, off Malden Road. Mr Grey said that as well as offering a “co-working space so that people that know what they are doing can just walk in and bring their negs”, they are also offering workshops to the uninitiated and are in talks with local primary schools about running classes.

“We are hoping this is going to give an opportunity to a lot of people to have the complete experience of taking a photograph all the way through from camera to print,” he said.

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