New Photography Darkroom

Gemma Juan

Gemma Juan

Kensington and Chelsea College opens brand new London darkroom as analogue photography makes a come back

Enthusiasts of analogue photography will be able to access a brand new darkroom opening in West London as the trend for retro images and film photography continues to thrive.

The new facility is being offered at Kensington and Chelsea College’s Chelsea Centre, located just off the famed King’s Road, and is open to photography students at the college, with a view to it being extended to become a bookable darkroom.

It comes during a growing trend towards more film based photography, which allows a more organic approach with slightly less predictable results. The huge growth in the use of Lomo cameras (Lomography) has generated interest across the world.* Such has been the growth in film photography that Fuji, a major player in photographic imaging, has recently brought out two new medium format film cameras.

A special darkroom open evening is being held on Wednesday 6th November in the college’s Carlyle Building on Hortensia Road, SW10 0QS. The event is free to attend, runs from 5pm to 9pm and is open to all including professional and budding photographers. Guests will be able to tour the darkroom and see some of its many features.

Tutors will also be on hand to offer information about the college’s wide range of photography courses, including a selection of courses starting in conjunction with the opening of the new darkroom the college.

The new courses include beginners, intermediate and advanced conventional darkroom courses, as well as specialist workshop based courses on topics including lith printing, toning and alternative processes. There will also be courses available which combine the college’s studio and darkroom so that students can take a black and white studio portrait, then process and print it in the darkroom.

While digital photography dominates the commercial and news gathering end of photography, much fine art and advertising photography is using film to create a different look. It is also now possible for digital photographers to have their images converted to film to enable them to benefit from the production of high quality silver based prints without the need to own a film camera.

For a younger generation who have only known digital photography, analogue photography is now ‘new’ technology.

Bruce Tanner, the head of photography at the college said: ‘Watching your first darkroom print appear in the developer under the dim red light is a moment you will never forget. Despite working mainly digitally, that magic moment has never left me. I designed this facility to make sure that we had a solid future for analogue photography in London. It has been designed from the ground up, with many years of experience in designing and working in darkrooms, you will enjoy being in it!’

The college’s renowned Photography Department remains ahead of the curve in developing cutting-edge courses and facilities for budding photographers, including offering the UK’s first ever iPhoneography course. Taking a similar innovative approach to analogue photography the college will be offering pinhole photography courses in the run up to International Pinhole Day on 27th April 2014.

The college’s new darkroom is built across three zones. Functions and features include:

  • Equipped with both condenser and diffusion enlargers which allow printing from 35mm up to 6 x 7 cm black and white negatives.
  • RC paper drying with fibre glass screens and rotary dryer for fibre paper.
  • Black and white processing and contact printing for all 35mm and 120 formats and small tank processing of 5” x 4” film using a MOD 54 system.
  • It uniquely, has film scanners for formats 35mm to 6 x 9 cm film so that students can process, then scan their work on site.
  • Dedicated light room area for toning, mounting, trimming and re-touching.
  • It can support classes of up to 14 students
  • Ventilated using an air cleaning system rather than a traditional extraction system which improves the air quality in the chemical areas, incoming water is also filtered to prevent contaminates reaching the processing area.
  • All types of black and white darkroom printing including fibre and RC silver printing and associated toning, lith printing; and alternative processes such as liquid light and cyanotypes can be achieved within the darkroom on any type of silver emulsion photo paper.