Darkroom / Lightroom

Local visual artist Graham Wiebe in his studio.

Photo by Callie Lugosi

Through the dramatic change from analog to digital photography, one thing has remained constant. Light and colour are captured and then edited, whether it be by hand-processing film or digitally manipulating an image through software like Lightroom, Photoshop or Instagram. While digital photography has eclipsed film in popularity and accessibility, a local darkroom workshop hopes to spark interest in older, lens-based knowledges.

Local interdisciplinary artist Meganelizabeth Diamond is co-hosting Black & White Darkroom Basics on March 23 and 24. Her process spans photography, filmmaking and collage.

“I’m attracted to the tangible developing process,” she says.

“I find it really fun to do. When I was doing my undergrad, I got really attached to being in the darkroom. I found that was where I was having the most fun at school.”

The workshop will be hosted in PLATFORM gallery’s darkroom in the Artspace building.

“We’re trying to get people to utilize ... the darkrooms that are available downtown,” Diamond says.

“There’s not a lot of darkrooms in Winnipeg in general. There’s just the one at (the University of Manitoba) and then the one through PLATFORM, and I don’t think people know that that’s something that’s available for them to use.”

The two-day workshop will begin with a history of analog film processing, taking participants through the approximately half-hour process of developing black-and-white film before teaching them how to print developed negatives. Enlarging processes, proper chemical uses and practices and printing techniques will all be covered.

Graham Wiebe is a local visual artist who works with analog film.

“I got into it because I was painting and I realized, ‘Dude, I am not a painter. These are not very good,’ So it was like, ‘Let’s try to make some photographs,’” he says.

Wiebe began with an old film camera his grandparents had given him, sending his film to professional developers before discovering he could develop it himself.

“It was therapeutic,” he says.

“It’s really time-consuming. That process has really slowed me down – both taking the photograph and deciding on which photograph is worth showing or worth blowing up or worth making a print of.”

He says that the dichotomy between film and digital photography, which often regards analog film as a higher art form, erases the actual complexity of the relationship between the two and the privilege required to shoot on film.

“I was like, ‘Man, I can’t keep shooting film forever!’ It’s getting too expensive,” he says.

“It’s going to be hard to make it sustainable and keep it going, but I think the people that are doing it will keep it around for a long time ... (But) in this digital age, everybody can take a photograph, everybody can make an image ... There’s benefits to both. It depends on what you’re trying to make.”

Diamond’s own practice blends digital and analog techniques. In Fifth Kingdom, her current exhibit at aceartinc.’s Flux Gallery, she is scanning printed analog photographs from old books and then creating digital collages.

Black & White Darkroom Basics is an opportunity to acquire a skill set that is often shrouded in mystery, opening opportunities for artists to make exciting connections between digital and analog processes.

“I think there’s lot of potential for both mediums,” Wiebe says.

“But I think to limit yourself to one or the other is not really the right move.”

The Black & White Darkroom Basics workshop runs March 23 and 24 from noon to 4 p.m. both days. It’s $40 for members and $65 for non-members. To reserve a spot, email outreach@platformgallery.org.

Published in Volume 73, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 14, 2019)

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