"I don't like going out into the light when I am in the darkroom. I like the consistency of the dark. It keeps me safe. The darkroom is a very good place to be. It's a womb. I feel I have everything there that I need. My mind, my emotions, my passions, my chemicals, my papers. My negatives. And my direction. In the dark room I am totally together". (Don McCullin - Unreasonable Behaviour)
It is hardly surprising that Don McCullin, veteran photographer of many conflicts, always willing to put himself in the front line, with a mind full of enough horrific images to drown any lesser man, should write about his darkroom in this way. A safe haven. Where creativity can express itself intellectually and emotionally. Where he is in control rather than on the edge, dependant on others who are often teetering on madness.
I certainly found that the darkroom was not a place I could share. It required complete focus. The red light that allowed you to see but didn't really alleviate the darkness created ghosts of its own, ghosts that appeared up through the chemicals as if finding resurrection. Such intimate feelings and complete immersion in one's work is much more difficult to achieve in front of a screen. Even if one switches off all other lights and works only by the light on the computer screen it is not the same cocooned existence. If mistakes are made they can be rectified at the touch of a button. In the darkroom, mistakes mean starting again with a new piece of photographic paper, more test strips, maybe some delicate masking or burning in. And if the telephone rang elsewhere in the house, one rarely opened the dark room door to answer it for fear of breaking a kind of spell, of letting the ghosts slip out never to be recaptured. But most of all, afraid of losing the magic that made darkness and light contrive to create an image that unveiled itself withthe slow inevitability of a memory emerging out of fog, an image that could, literally, be fixed, washed, hung up to dry.