Light & Dark
Light and Dark is photography project funded in part by the European Union, in conjunction with AK Tirol - A chamber of Labour based in Tirol, Austria and Kona - a Cornish based charity. The idea is simple, invite 5 young europeans over the live in the UK for one month. They undergo training and produce a portfolio of work using analogue, 35mm film cameras. The results are processed by the group, by hand, in a local darkroom.
Our theoretical aims were to:
- Provide an understanding of where photography has come from and the role of digital in todays world.
- Impart upon the students techniques to make them better photographers.
- Develop a passion for photography in each person through the ‘magic’ of analogue tools and techniques.
The practical aims were to:
- Give the youngsters a fantastic, enjoyable opportunity.
- Provide access to professional and creative tutors and mentors.
- Develop tangible skills beyond photography - team work, self evaluation, punctuality, professionalism etc.
- Immerse the youngsters in the local culture.
- Have each young person create a solid body of work they can be proud of.
- Print a minimum of 4 images for exhibition.
When devising the training, we wanted to keep things as practical as possible. Yet, like with most practical subjects there is a element of theory which needs communicating. As much emphasis as possible was put on the artistic and human connection to photography, the emotions a picture can generate and the story one image can tell. It really helped to have examples of amazing work from a wide variety of photographers which illustrated the artistic principles we discussed through technical / creative applications of light, the camera and lens.
Technical training included:
- Loading and removing 35mm film.
- Manually focussing the lens.
- Shutter and Aperture definition.
- Understanding exposure and reciprocity.
- Loading Patterson spiral development tanks - blindfolded.
Training that is technical in nature but with heavy creative effects included:
- Effects of shutter speed and aperture size on an image through visual examples.
- Film types and ISO.
- Tripods and filters.
No film processing or development training was provided until the group had shot some film and were in the darkroom itself.
The group were given the freedom to shoot whatever they were interested in over two weeks. This could be a genre of photography such as landscapes, portraits, etc. Alternatively it could be related to a subject or location such as street photography or wildlife.
If they wished, colour film could be shot and processed by a local lab. Or their entire portfolio could be made from black and white images.
Maria and Jakob chose street photography in Plymouth. Raoul and David chose wildlife and nature, however towards the end of the project Raoul tried some experimental photography techniques and shot a street picture in plymouth market. Caroline's portfolio was macro based, focused on fauna and flora.
The group had a lot of freedom to work in their own time and at their own pace - nevertheless they were supported by myself and some local mentors. Some opportunities were created for them, such as a visit to Mount Edgecumbe to work with the team there. However, we wanted as many actives to be self initiated, providing resources, guidance, support and encouragement as required.
In order to keep on top of the volume of film the team were shooting, once a week we visited the darkroom based at Ocean Studios, Plymouth.
We were able to train the group in black and white development and printing. This was all hands on training, we split the group into two and took each group through the entire process, allowing them to assist with the mixture of chemicals, agitation, washing and drying of film.
Following a successfully developed roll, contact sheets and the development of a print was demonstrated - from setting exposure on a test trip to dodging and burning the final image.
Astonishingly, after the first few days the group were able to operate independently with little or no input required in the technical aspects of processing. The only support we provided was in a creative capacity, gauging exposure times, contrast etc.
When their film had been successfully developed and dried contact prints were made by each person for every roll of film, giving each person a chance to see a positive image of their work to better evaluated which images should be printed.
For the final photographs each person had 25 sheets of 8x10 paper, and 8 sheets of 12x16. From this they we asked to allocate their own test strips, evaluate the printed photograph, make any adjustments and finally dodge and burn.
After printing, the images were framed. Some of the group chose to buy new frames, others found older frames in second hand shops.
In the final week the group printed their work, selecting photos that really struck a cord within them. They presented the work back in a small exhibition at Ocean Studios. Thanks to Seb Franceschi for shooting some images on our behalf.
At the end of the project Mark Lomas, a colleague of mine joined us to shoot a 5x4 piece of sheet film of the group. The resulting negative was contact printed as a souvenir of the groups experience.
It was amazing to witness the development of these young people. None of them had ever shot or processed film before, yet over the course of a month they developed the skills to be able to shoot and deliver technically good images with lots of creativity.
More so, they developed the confidence to make technical and creative decisions independently, overcoming some personal challenges along the way.
The group's final work can be viewed in the Light & Dark section of the site. The printed images will be on display in Innsbruck, Austria very soon.