First posted 21 Feb 2009
Today I gave a talk and an all day practical darkroom lesson to around 10 Photo Educators from Colleges and Universities across the north of England.
The event was staged by Ilford/Harman and is part of their strategy to keep darkrooms as a viable part of photographic education. Here in the UK, the college budgets are determined by student numbers and if they can get more ‘bums on seats’ per room, then they think they are doing good. The consequence is that in theory, each student is allocated one square metre of space!
Darkrooms and studios take up a lot of space which is not occupied all day, so the logic is that they should be ripped out and replaced with a lot of computers (after all, digital is the future).
The tutors I have met over the last five years are passionate about darkroom because most of them came into photography that way. Some of them have had big battles with heads of department, or people in finance and not all have been successful. The main College in the town nearest to me lost all of its darkrooms four years ago.
Coupled with this; the amount of administration, register upkeep, meetings and paper shuffling that the average tutor has to do, means that they get very little time to actually teach the practical aspects of the course.
Tutors become so distant from the very thing that got them interested in the first place, that they get really ‘rusty’. my job today was to get them back in the darkroom and give them some simple methods for creating high quality prints.
Without sounding boastful, the response was very enthusiastic and the impression I got was that everyone had a really inspiring day.