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Robin Bell’s Silver Footprint: The Movie!

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

Richard Dunkley invited me to a screening of the film he made about the printer Robin Bell, at Calumet Euston on Monday afternoon. Richard’s done a great job with this – I highly recommend you see it if you’re interested in black and white printing.

As you probably know, I’ve known Robin for several years and have great respect for him as a friend and as a printer.

The DVD of Richard’s film The Silver Footprint contains over 40 minutes of extras, apart from the documentary itself, with Robin demonstrating the craft of black and white printing. If you print yourself you’ve got to see this! Robin is the best in the business and he gives a masterclass.

You can order the DVD from the website and, if you’re interested in black and white photography, I suggest that you do.

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.

Exalted Company

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
Robin Bell's Silver Footprint

Robin's book

When I picked up Robin’s book at the London opening of his show last week I was chuffed to see he’d elected to put my picture on a spread opposite a Bill Brandt. What a complement!

Robin Bell's Silver Footprint

Bill and me

I don’t know if it’s fate taunting me after I mentioned Brandt in this blog last month, but now I come to think about it, it’s a little intimidating. Quite a lot to measure up to! Still, all in all I’m thrilled.

For anyone who hasn’t been following the story: Robin is the man I have been using for my printing recently. He’s probably the most respected printer in London and, to mark his 35 years in the darkroom, he selected some favorite pictures to go in an exhibition. I was very flattered to be asked to contribute, especially considering the exalted company I would be amongst. The book is effectively the catalogue of that show.

The book is available from the gallery.

Robin’s ‘Silver Footprint’ show moves to London

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

Robin Bell’s Silver Footprint show is moving to the Richard Young Gallery in Kensington, London – and it includes the picture of mine that Robin chose:

Kapitulska, Bratislava. November 2003.

Kapitulska, Bratislava. November 2003.

I’m looking forward to the opening, and seeing the book which the exhibition has spawned. Drop by if you’re in London, the show is on from 5th to 28th November at the Richard Young Gallery.

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.

Exhibition print

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Robin Bell has made a lovely 24×2 print of a popular picture of mine (this one):


with the idea that I can get it framed and take it around to a few galleries here, to show them what they’ll have to sell if they give me a show.

The first obstacle, though, was getting the print onto Easyjet. I don’t like rolling fibre prints up, especially after Robin had gone through the process of making it nice and flat, so I was carrying it in a big cardboard envelope. I couldn’t check the thing in – not without wrapping it up much more to prevent bending and possible rain – but wasn’t looking forward to check-in.

Let’s face it, the low-cost airlines are great, and I simply couldn’t travel as much as I do without them, but they can sometimes be very fussy about what you carry on to the aeroplane. However – on this occasion Easyjet raised no objections, the envelope just fitted into the overhead locker, and everything worked out.

Now I have to find a decent framer who won’t charge me the earth, and go forth into the world to sell my wares.