Darkroom and Digital

I am just about to open a new exhibition on April 1st - no, not an April Fool! - and, as with all my previous post-digital exhibitions, I will include some black and white images taken on film and processed in the darkroom. One reason why I include both 'digital' and 'darkroom' is that I want people to see the difference (and there is a difference, particularly with black and white images). Printing of digital images has become infinitely better in recent years - reds are truer when it comes to colour (and now approximate those wonderful Kodachrome reds one exploited when taking slide film), blacks are deeper, but still feel closer to the surface than the rich coal black one could achieve on Grade 6 paper in the darkroom.

However, I am not saying one is better than the other, only that both have their unique qualities, each requires different skills in the photographer, so we should do our best to make sure the digital age doesn't close the darkroom door for ever.

Note that I didn't entitle this blog Digital vs Darkroom. Although my eye does it in a different way, I still use skills I honed in the darkroom when I now work on a screen. Maybe because one worked virtually in the dark, a comforting red glow like a halo never quite filling the room, that one's eye was sharpened and composition, exposure, focus demanded all one's concentration. I am sure some people worked with music in the background but, having printed in a number of darkrooms, I never found that to be the case. It was as if music would be a distraction for what quickly became, if one was in for a long session, a ritual, and the magical appearance of the image through the chemicals something spiritual. There are moments sitting in front of the screen when one sees magic happen too - but I have never found working on digital quite as compelling.

And, at some point, I will tell you the story of how I almost became locked in a school darkroom for a whole weekend...