What does darkroom-based photography, the hyacinth macaw, Densuke watermelon, love at first sight, modest musicians, Hitchcock critics and the bubonic plague all have in common?
The common denominator is that they are all rare.
The 20th century marked the introduction of digital cameras, revolutionising photography as an art form. Analogue processes have rapidly declined, losing the battle against the more convenient digital cameras. Currently only a minority of people possess the key to the magical world of darkroom-based photography and those interested in the medium struggle to find the equipment, knowledge and financial means to enter.
Contemporary art gallery, Strange Neighbour, seeks to facilitate the art and science of the declining medium. According to the gallery’s co-founder, Linsey Gosper, modern artists are the driving force behind the revival of darkroom practice. The gallery’s current exhibition, Khem, demonstrates the works of collective artists strictly using analogue and darkroom photography. The artists have a unique bond with darkrooms, believing the unique space provides them with a mental and physical environment to contemplate their craft.
For contributing artist, Ruth Maddison, the unpredictable nature of the darkroom attracts her. ‘The tonal range depends on variables like paper stock, length of time in sun or shade, whether the objects are wet or dry’ she says ‘and an unpredictable magic… happens when light sensitive paper is touched by light.’
Whilst another artist, Claudia Terstappen, believes that with the medium ‘the creative process is wide open and it is often these inaccuracies caused by chemical reactions that lead to a new meaning…. There are many effects in the analogue process that one can recreate with digital technologies, but not invent.’
The exhibition coincides with the gallery’s opening of its black and white darkroom. Walking inside the facility one would hardly suspect that the well-equipped and spacious darkroom was built entirely by Linsey and her partner, Ash Kerr, on a restricted budget. Open for public use, Linsey hopes ‘the darkroom will provide a space and opportunity for the love of darkroom to be enjoyed, shared and fostered.’
So if you’re Melbourne based, a photography enthusiast or interested in entering the unpredictable, magical, wonderful, world of darkroom based photography…
Don’t be shy, go discover the Strange Neighbour at:
395–397 Gore St
By Van Adora