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A Closer Look - Darkroom

from the book Darkroom published by SteidlDangin
Few members of my generation will maintain a working darkroom. Sure, to the surprise of the public, tons of us still shoot film and lug around view cameras. But for most of the photographers I run with, their analogue skill set stops there. It's a shame, too. What happens when photographers no longer learn the craftsmanship of working with their hands? Who will teach them there are 54 tones in a traditional silver print? And how will this affect photographic image making in the future? I have long said that anyone learning photography would gain more insight into image making through the patience endured in the darkroom and the slight light-headedness from the chemicals. And while digital technology seems endless in its potential to advance the medium, I do feel most new photographers would benefit by looking at the medium's past before embarking full tilt into their future.

That is why I find Adam Bartos' new monograph Darkroom to be a long overdue nod to the rapidly shifting culture of photography. The darkroom has persisted since Niépce made the first permanent photograph and Daguerre and Fox Talbot refined it. Its presence and symbolic importance will long outlast the current digital media trends. The darkroom is a relic of something real, a symbol that won't be lost in photography's short, but vibrant history.

from the book Darkroom published by SteidlDangin

There is a sense that Bartos sees his subject as such… a relic to be photographed with a certain level of indifference. There is little emotional connection. Instead, Bartos has approached his subject similar to how an archeologist would photograph the evidence of a city's ruin, displaying the aging of time through dismantled enlargers and a discontinued dry-press. Bartos takes us into the artist's darkroom to gaze not only at their relics, but also to give us a small insight into their solitude. The only information given about each space is the location and how many years the darkroom has been in operation. And while no direct information is given about whose space we are looking in on, hints such as book dummies, oddly formatted negative carriers and a few working prints tacked to the wall might give a few of us some clues.

from the book Darkroom published by SteidlDangin
from the book Darkroom published by SteidlDangin
Bartos' indifference also allows the viewer to imagine those photographers who find refuge in the spaces he photographs. For those of us who have worked in a darkroom, we know it is a place for filtering creative meditation and a venue for an occasional outburst of song and dance in the dark. This is a space that allows for those who see the world differently, to act a little different. The evidence of this difference is apparent through the odd objects on the walls and consistent splash of chemical stains. A meticulous application of glow in the dark tape might have one wondering who in the world would have time for such a thing. Or a sterile, thoroughly self-contained room could have another wondering what types of images come from someone so rigid! All-in-all, Bartos photographs with a style that allows us to wonder and create for ourselves the people who have assembled the work spaces and the work we are admiring. -- Antone Dolezal

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1 comment:

  1. I agree that there are still many of us film photographers still practicing. In my opinion, the darkroom will always be. Thanks.