A Photo Romance: B&W Film

Today I started to learn a beautiful thing - how to shoot, develop and print black & white film.

Jonathan Bradley, AKA ‪#‎kitchendarkroom‬ has long been an exponent of the dark (and light) arts of analogue, and his enthusiasm and expertise were a perfect match for my anticipation and inexperience.

As we wandered through the Tyne Valley I shot with a non-digital SLR for the first time, and promptly fell in love with a classy and classic Leica R7. The sun shone and birds sang for my photo romance!

Then it was back to the kitchen darkroom and a spot of chemistry. Loading the film into the development canister solely by touch in the dark is a tricky thing to master without putting paw marks all over the precious negatives, but after that it's plain sailing: developer, stopper and fixer soon become a familiar trio and the great thing with analogue is there's time to wander to the pub for Sunday lunch while your negatives dry.

I even skipped pudding - that's how excited I was to get back for the final print session!

This is when the magic really happens, and the images finally shimmer into life in the dim red darkroom light. I felt like the Sorcerers Apprentice as I developed, stopped, fixed and rinsed each photograph, and was nothing short of enchanted as each one materialised out of the ether.

I found something almost organic about the whole process of photography without the digital jiggery pokery - and I'm starting to understand the misty eyed reminiscences of photographers for a pre-digital era.

As someone who only started to take photography seriously in the digital age I've always felt rather intimidated by the thought of film. It's taken a while to gain the confidence to approach it, and of course I've only just begun to learn. But it feels excitingly like "proper" photography and I already have some thoughts as to how I may include elements in my work in future.

I'm sure I'll always have that D in front of most of my SLRs, but there's definitely a part of my heart that today was lost to film.

Jonathan Bradley at The Kitchen Darkroom can be contacted at jonathan@bradley-photography.com

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