Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Darkrooms Are Almost Extinct
If you're a photographer of a certain age (in my case, the mid-thirties) then you no doubt learned to ply your trade at least partly in the dark. The darkroom, once as much a part of photography as the computer is today, was a magical and mysterious place. More than anything, it was a place. It was where photographers went to create their photographs. Every darkroom had a personality, and one could glean some little bit of knowledge about a photographer's techniques based on a glimpse into his darkroom workspace. Darkrooms, like artists, were very unique. Unfortunately darkrooms are disappearing. For the most part they're already gone. Labs that once thrived are now shuttered, and facilities that employed dozens now cling to life with a skeleton crew. The darkroom, a tool once synonymous with photography, is now all but extinct. Photographer Richard Nicholson has been photographing darkrooms—specifically, the centerpieces of those darkrooms, the enlargers—as part of his newest project. Wired's Raw File photo blog has put together a collection of the images, as well as an interview with the photographer. He mentions that a mere five years ago there were more than 200 photo labs in London; now just six remain. If you're a former darkroom photographer yourself you may find it difficult to say goodbye to these "dinosaurs." And if you never had the pleasure, you may want to put in a little bit of time now before it's entirely too late.