What can really be done in a darkroom?

22 min read

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GavinTheBard's avatar
By GavinTheBard
I admit, I’m addicted to the smell of photo chemicals and the red glow of a safelight. :laughing:  Sadly, developing ones own films and prints is an artform that is being neglected in recent years due to the introduction of digital cameras and software like Photoshop. What can be accomplished in the darkroom is unknown to many people and even my professor in my darkroom class admitted that the type of work I was doing was beyond her knowledge and she romanticizes the darkroom the same way that I do.  There just is something about creating your own print that leaves a different sense of satisfaction than a print received from a photolab.

There was a recent <a href=news.deviantart.com/article/63…>news feature which showed how people were manipulating Polaroid images before Photoshop, which was really good to see.  However, it left out the many neat things that can be done in a darkroom, which I think people should be aware of. There are the works of <a href=www.uelsmann.com>Jerry Uelsmann who started to create montages using multiple negatives and up to 8 enlargers to create a single print starting in the late 1950’s.  Before him there was <a href=web.uvic.ca/~hist66/roberts/Ga…>Hannah Maynard who did multiple exposures (look under artistic link) and would cut out pictures and assembled them into a new picture to take (look under the gems link) and she did this back in the late 1800’s!

Below you will be introduced to deviants who are still creating in the darkroom. Make sure to comment, :+fav: and :+devwatch: the images you enjoy to help encourage the deviants to continue these types of creations.

A photogram is created when one places objects between a light source and the paper so the shadows of the object will create shapes on the paper.  Many wonderful things can be created this way.

photogram by melissamyth razor smile by urbandecoy :thumb80440651: photogram by boliliboow

Photogram by emocath :thumb26942519: Photogram 5 by panda-pie :thumb25699123:

photogram 1. by RAWR-ima-Dinoroar Photogram 2 by panda-pie Rock and Roll 2 by katiebelle411

Writer's Block 2 by katiebelle411 Going Shopping 1 by katiebelle411 Photogram by Wam Leaf by CraftyTash

Cross Processing
Cross processing is where you use the chemicals for one type of film to develop a different type of film.  For example, you use the chemicals to develop slide film to develop color negative film.  This will often times lead to images that have brilliant over exaggerate colors.

crowded by missaassiimii :thumb52620901: body by umwayao sunshine by morze

:thumb54470479: :thumb58202951: :thumb15855521:

Mature Content

Cross Process. by addictedImage

Sunflower by Pop6Squish cross process portrait 1 by marcusfoto Summer Daze by annabelle30 untitled 38 by xxlogre

:thumb103888390: Nature Wins - Cross Process by akuba Cross 4 by xxlogre

Alternative Processes</a>
There are many different types of processes that can be used to create unique and interesting prints. Read the artist notes in each of these images as many of them give details about what process was used to create them.

:thumb104187370: :thumb79931965: Woman, Witch, Warrior V by ladyofdragons .: cloud dancer :. by webgod1

:thumb104495003: :thumb79888946: Steam Engine Wheels pinhole by coldmarble Polaroid Transfer - 11 by Dreams-Made-Flesh

Polaroid Transfer - 12 by Dreams-Made-Flesh A Proper Palladium by silversmith Amber crumbles-Vandyke Brown by Andruld721 Argyrotype by JesusRod

Inner beauty- Cyanatype by Andruld721 Sun through the Trees by matthew-s-hanson The Churchfield by DeadAsLeaves :thumb39033689:


Multiple Exposures
Some cameras will allow you to take multiple exposures on a single negative.  Check your camera manual if it has a setting or switch to allow you to do this.  If so, and you are using an older 35mm camera, if you want to take 2 images on one negative double your ISO/ASA speed.  If you want to take 3 then triple the speed.

Swing Swing II by xvintage-hearts Kiss Thyself by ChillaPhoto I See You're Transparent II by xvintage-hearts Multiple Exposure by shanelk

Twins by lona13 Multiple Exposure by obsedante-mode-adic multiple exposure by Pearlyrock :thumb79828701:

Twins? by silent-angels :thumb12080766: Multiple Exposure 1 by Dodge-and-burn Multiple exposure by aimee-hastingsspin

:thumb100371827: Multiple exposure by PsychadelicPsychosis Multiple Exposure by BlueEyes08

Collages and Montages
Combination printing is the idea of using more than one negative to create a single image.  In collages you can see distinct images where in a montage the negatives are used to make a single image.

Darkroom by marikeeler Collage by aforgottenpast krays eyes by TeapotMysteries Sunflower by Bunnygirl-

Hall of the Mountain King by EnigmagicStudios Montage II by YutaniX can you see me? by MizuJinx He's Gone by Divanartem

Urban Landscape Montage 2 by burningbush eyes by montanamudd Mirror by EnigmagicStudios

Montage I by YutaniX

My Work
I first learned how to develop prints in a darkroom almost 20 years ago and recently started working on it again.  These are some of the recent images I did for a class.

The Past by GavinTheBard Guiding Light - WIP by GavinTheBard Ghost Eyes by GavinTheBard A Watching Light by GavinTheBard

Someone's Watching by GavinTheBard Scott Rosema Collage by GavinTheBard Calm into Rough Waters by GavinTheBard Ghosts in the Woods by GavinTheBard

Innuendo by GavinTheBard Old Haunt by GavinTheBard
© 2008 - 2021 GavinTheBard
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Beautiful photos you have here! The process is amazing. Glad you are keeping it going.
Back in highschool, I had a boyfriend who was a photographer. In a pitch black room- he showed me this neat little magical purple spark that came off of the tape that needed to be removed from the roll of film before it could be developed. It was sparkaliscious. I wonder if that is still the case?
I have lot of respect for your artwork... especially nowadays where people point- click- download-edit and publicly paste all in a couple of minutes.
Keep on keepin' it real.
GavinTheBard's avatar
Sorry for my delay in responding, things are a bit crazy atm for me.

I do love to work in the darkroom still, but it will be another couple months before I can back into it due to a digital project that I'm working on for an art competition. I actually shoot both digital and film depending on what it is I'm wanting to accomplish. Sadly, I can't accomplish everything I want to do in a darkroom :(

I haven't looked for that spark in many years as I typically roll my own film and if I buy it, I just cut the film off the roll. So much quicker and less chance of any contamination from stray adhesive.

I greatly appreciate your comment! It is good to know people still appreciate a darkroom print.
Thanks for your response. Yes... there's something very magical about the darkroom work. Keep up the awesome job!
GavinTheBard's avatar
Thank you, I shall get back in there. Have projects lined up for it as well :D
I look forward to seeing more of your work. It is wonderful!
GavinTheBard's avatar

Thank you pretty lady. V yes, I'veery much appreciated!
You're a charmer. Thanks for the compliment! ;)
GavinTheBard's avatar
radioPooh's avatar
the darkroom is dead

i hope you can keep it alive

i have some film ( somewhere ) that needs developing

from the 80's or before

taken with my Cannon A1
DaphneNg's avatar
Amazing! Makes me wanna work in the dArkroom now... Too bad I don't have the cash nor place to do that. But these are really interesting, to think one can develop the films like this without the use of photoshop/manipulating.
usernamehereplease's avatar
great article! Makes me miss the darkroom at college....
JeanLuc44's avatar
Okay, I have nothing against film photography/darkroom work. In fact, it's how I learned photography (and fell in love with it, totally and passionately). I worked with equipment from 35mm through medium up to large-format . . . an 8x10 transparency is an amazing visual feast! And I love alternative processes . . . spent way too much lunch money on chemistry for palladium prints.

However, there's nothing I can do with film/darkroom that I can't do with digital/Photoshop. (Okay, a digital sepia or palladium print doesn't look as gorgeous as a hand-printed one, but we still have the ability to create negatives from digital files if needed.)

I like knowing that there are still photographers (more than a few) committed to preserving film methods as long as possible (I also think it's interesting that the Amish still use horses and buggies). But I don't miss the toxic chemistry for developing film and prints, nor the long time from exposure to viewing. Digital technology allows us to develop new ways of capturing images, and of sharing our vision with the world. When I feel the need to practice "slow photography," I just spending more time looking and less time "spraying-and-praying."
edredon's avatar
so many things can be done in a darkroom :party:
MizuJinx's avatar
yeah when i was in photo my senior year of high school i wanted to do darkroom montage so badly, but i couldn't due to the fact that the projectors were only available to me only forty minutes to an hour each day. And if i could do anything, the most of the projectors i could keep from other students were two. Hopefully in college i'll be able to do it again. Jerry Uelsmann is a became a big influence in my senior year too, and i hope to accomplish at least some of what he did.
Captain-Marmote's avatar
ahh this was really good to read and see. i love to create multiple exposure and collages in the darkroom. ive been studying Jerry Ueslmann as inspiration for my work as well.
missaassiimii's avatar
great article
and thanks for including one of my work :)
GavinTheBard's avatar
My pleasure and I'm glad I picked out your favorite picture from it as well. There are some great darkroom scans on here!
ladyofdragons's avatar
Wow, thank you for featuring my work. That series doesn't get much attention because I'm better known for my illustrations. I've always loved that series though and you picked my favorite print from it too! Thank you! :+fav:
burningbush's avatar
makes me wanna go back into the dark room and experiment!
GavinTheBard's avatar
You should find a way to do so :D I have an interesting experiment I'll be working on after finishing another piece I've already started.
GavinTheBard's avatar
My pleasure and find some way to get back into the darkroom. As I've mentioned to someone else, some schools have a policy that once you take a class in the darkroom you can continue to use it. Never hurts to ask, the worse that could happen is they say no.
TeapotMysteries's avatar
i have to agree with you..every time i walk past the photography lab at uni i pang to go in and take a sniff from my socks to my hair line. i miss it so much..i miss the darkness the sense of creatativity and art that you get...

thank you so much for putting my work in here xxx big big hug x
GavinTheBard's avatar
My pleasure and find some way to get back into the darkroom. As I've mentioned to someone else, some schools have a policy that once you take a class in the darkroom you can continue to use it. Never hurts to ask, the worse that could happen is they say no.
TeapotMysteries's avatar
tis true. it was like that at the collage i went to. but at uni you have to be enrolled in a photography class..i've asked but they said do it digtal..darn them. i will have to build my own one day. x
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