I last used a proper darkroom in college, for a brief course that set off my film photography obsession with a vengeance. I’ve been looking for darkrooms to use ever since, and thought it was a good idea to have refresher course before I start stinking of fixer and ruining sheets of Ilford Multigrade again.
So yesterday I went on a darkroom course at St Paul’s Learning Centre here in Bristol, where they have a very amply-stocked darkroom with 10 enlargers, full wet printing facilities, and multitudes of odds and ends to fulfil any of your printing needs. The course was designed to cover the whole process, from developing film and processing it, to making contact sheets and printing your photos. I was a bit idle during the first half of the day, as I’d turned up with rolls of already-processed film, whereas everyone else needed to process theirs first. So after lunch we got down to printing, including setting up the enlargers (with colour heads, great for dialling in different contrast levels) and learning how to make sure your image is in focus (looks for the grains!).
Ruth, the course leader, was really knowledgable – it was obvious she’d been printing for years, and was a great help in jogging my memory and refining the small amount of knowledge I already had. I’m planning on joining as a member, which means I’ll be able to use the darkroom whenever I like for just £10 per 3-hour session (more than enough time to churn through all the prints I’d like to make).
I ended up with four good prints from the session – some with more contrast, some in softer tones. I’m really pleased with the Spitalfields Church and Croydon Market prints especially – prints have a range of tones that digital just can’t match!
If you’d like to follow St Paul’s Community Darkroom or enquire about courses, their website is here.