Monday, 8 August 2016

Laura Hudson Mackay - Darkroom Masterclass

Film photography is making a comeback and I’m excited. For a good number of years film has been threatened due to the transition into the world of digital photography but like the recent vinyl record boom, enthusiasm for using film is growing again at a steady pace.

As a photographic artist who works almost exclusively in black and white, film photography, processing and hand crafting images offers many interesting and creative opportunities. Spending time in the darkroom enables a wide range of interpretations, emotions and possibilities and for me, can also be a relaxing and meditative place to work.

It is a good thing as an artist to continually train, push forward, develop and improve, so I set myself a challenge to book a course with an Ilford Master Printer. Dave Butcher, who is based in Derbyshire, worked for Ilford Photo for 21 years, including running the photographic printing department and more recently has become a genius teacher.

The course was split over two full days and time was spent working from my own medium format 6x6 negatives and included using all four different enlargers in the darkroom. The experience of using this range of equipment, although confusing at first, was invaluable. 

During the course, I learnt the technique of Split Grade printing, probably the most useful and powerful method of darkroom printing. It is the technique used by Ilford printers for pretty much all hand prints. Once mastered it considerably reduces the amount of dodging and burning adjustments. It involves using both low and high contrast exposure instead of the usual single exposure.

On the final day I left bursting with ideas and inspiration and with a head full of new skills and top tips that Dave had imparted, along with a number of hand printed (by me!) large prints ready to frame and exhibit.

Now it is time to put all I’ve learnt into practice and disappear back into my own darkroom enlightened and much improved.

If you have any unwanted darkroom or film photography equipment you no longer have a use for, please get in touch as I can find a new home for it/pass onto someone who will make good use of it. Please email me at info @ and if you are in Dumfries and Galloway, I’ll happily come and collect.

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