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Black and White London

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Since the use of film in photography has dropped away to a minute fraction of what it was even ten years ago, and most of the darkrooms and suppliers have closed down, we’ve apparently reached a point where it’s found it’s own level now.

Many students are showing a keen interest in both black-and-white and colour film processes. Secondhand darkroom equipment prices, for so long in free-fall, are now on the rise. Even new films and papers are being developed.

Even so, now that there are only a few specialists about, it can be difficult to find the right supplier when you need them. So I thought it might be useful to make a list of the establishments I use in London. This list is by no means exhaustive, it’s just people that I use on a regular basis.

If you can recommend any other places please add the details in a comment – I still haven’t found somewhere to do full frame 35mm neg scans, for example, and I’d be very interested in hearing about anywhere!

I haven’t included the obvious places like Calumet and Jacobs largely since, even though they still stock some film related stuff, their emphasis is digital nowadays. Also I reckon everyone knows about them anyway.

Darkroom Services – hand processing and printing

Robin Bell – Robin is one of a kind. If you want the best exhibition or museum quality black-and-white prints make your way down to the little mews in Fulham.

Alan Robertson – One of the old school photography industry professionals, Alan is a great printer and knows all the tricks of the trade. Whether you need an old print restored, a film processed, a new print made – anything in fact – Alan will sort you out. It’s just sad to think that there don’t seem to be any youngsters learning the ropes – what are we going to do when Alan, and everyone like him, has retired? Alan is my neighbour in Iliffe Yard.

Darkside Photographic – A very good professional lab in Clerkenwell.

Rapid Eye – Good professional scanning services. They have a good reputation for colour work too, but I don’t know about that stuff.

Suppliers of Photographic Materials

Silverprint – Suppliers of all things analogue, as well as a wealth of advice. I buy paper and chemicals here, but they do much more.

Process Supplies – If you can’t get what you’re looking for here then you probably can’t get what you’re looking for.

Equipment Hire

Photofusion – They have an Imacon scanner you can use on an hourly basis, along with a wealth of other services available. You must pay a fee to join, but it’s well worth it if you frequent the place.

Fixation – They hire out film scanners, and a lot more.

I think that’s about it for the moment. I’ll add more if and when I think of them – but please feel free to add your own recommendations below.

Robin Bell’s Silver Footprint

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Visited Battle in the south of England, near Hastings, for Robin Bell‘s birthday party on Saturday. I’m sure you know that Battle is actually where the Battle of Hastings was fought. What are the chances of that happening?

Great to see Robin and Lucy in such good spirits, a great day was had by all. Robin was using the occasion of his 60th birthday to hold an exhibition in the Independent Photographer’s Gallery bringing together some of his favourite pictures from 35 years in the darkroom. It was an honour for me to have one of my pictures selected for the show.

Kapitulská, Bratislava, Slovakia. November 2003.
Kapitulská, Bratislava, Slovakia. November 2003.

Among many new people we met at the party was documentary photographer Colin Summers who has a picture from Banda Aceh in the show, shot in the aftermath of the tsunami. I can’t help but admire the emotional strength of people who take this kind of picture, I’m not sure I could do it. Colin’s a great bloke and deserves to succeed in his chosen field.

The conversation among the photography professionals at the event centred around the inevitable subject: nobody’s selling pictures. It’s a tough time in the photography industry, but it was great to have other people to talk to about what’s happening.

The show itself is really great. I always enjoy shows that aren’t built around a single visual theme, which I find grow tiresome by the time I’ve seen a couple of dozen pictures. The theme here is simply Robin’s taste, and an eclectic taste it is. From hardcore photojournalism (Don McCullin, Tom Stoddart, Colin Summers, Lee Miller) through to high class celebrity portraiture (Terry O’Neill, Bob Carlos Clarke, Terence Donovan), and much in between, Robin has simply chosen pictures he likes. All – of course – beautifully printed.

Go to see the show if you possibly can.

A Great Honour

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Things have been a little depressing around here recently, what with the damage some very clever people have done to the world economy and the knock-on effect of nobody buying pictures, so it was great to have a little boost this morning. The invite arrived to Robin Bell’s anniversary show.

It give me quite a lift to see the list of the exhibitors, selected by Robin. Names such as, Eve Arnold, Bill Brandt, Bob Carlos Clarke, Terence Donovan, Ernst Haas, Lee Miller, Don McCullin, Terry O’Neill, Norman Parkinson… and me! What an honour.

I’ve been trying to find a link to the show somewhere, but since it doesn’t start until May I guess it’s not up yet. I’ll keep you posted.

Good black and white printers

Monday, February 16th, 2009

It’s getting increasingly difficult to find good black and white printers – I mean people who stand in darkrooms with their fingers in chemicals, not plastic boxes that sit on your desk. I have used Robin Bell in Fulham, who is of course great, but I could really do with someone more close by. In Valencia for instance.

What happened to all those people who spent their lives producing good B&W prints? Have they all retired?