If you thought film was dead, think again. A group of local photographers have come together to create the first all-new, public access darkroom in Leeds City Centre.
Aire Street Darkroom is less than two minutes’ walk from Leeds train station. Hidden within the Victorian architecture of Aire Street Workshops, the professionally-resourced, light-tight lab offers a range of wet print facilities for photographers of all abilities.
It’s a hub where anyone can learn to process and print monochrome images using traditional techniques, and the demand is soaring. In a world dominated with digital noise and radio ga ga, the humble black and white photograph is enjoying something of global revival. But many dedicated photographers would argue that its appeal never went away...
"Creating prints by hand in a darkroom is a long-established and respected practise – one which is now being rediscovered by a whole new generation of artists," explains John Arnison, internationally-renowned portrait photographer and founder member of the darkroom. His prints have been exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A Museum, among others.
"Many of our students were born in the digital era, yet they have a real desire to work directly with light and chemistry instead of pixels. We also have a community of established photographers who are reviving old cameras to enjoy the reward of creating tactile images using papers and chemistry, all by hand.”
The Aire Street Darkroom experience is exactly as you’d expect in a hip Seventies movie: A comfortably ventilated space bathed in red glow allows images to be burnt on light-sensitive paper from a film negative. Those papers are then gently immersed in chemistry to resolve silver images in striking shades of black and grey. The pictures appear before your eyes – almost like magic.
“Members travel from beyond the region to work with us,” explains John. “It’s great to see so many people of all ages expressing their talents through monochrome prints, and it’s apt that our darkroom has found its home in Leeds – the place where the earliest known motion picture film was captured.”
Aire Street Darkroom is now offering a range of courses running on Monday nights for five-week terms, with personal tutoring from John. Levels range from introductory courses for total beginners to advanced workshops.
Paid drop-in sessions on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons are also available to membership holders who want to use the space to develop their own prints.
To be in with a chance of winning a free printing lesson with John, simply subscribe to the Aire Street Darkroom newsletter at airestreetdarkroom.co.uk before 1st October 2019.
Originally published for North Leeds Life magazine in August 2019.
I'm just getting used to my new exposure...
Instructing film photography, developing and printing in the darkroom.