Developing my films and printing my own negatives in the darkroom – i.e. personally driving the entire process – has always, without exception, been my passion. No-one else but me has ever developed my rolls of film. Even when confronted with the consumerist sirens of digital technology, I declined to surrender. I reject the instant gratification gained when viewing the image just taken on an LCD display on the back of a camera. To me, photographs are sacred and there is no substitute for the process of unveiling the image and thereafter creating magic in the darkroom.
During my long travels in Africa, sometimes lasting 3 or 5 months, I invariably store my films, labeled and numbered, in a cool place in the vehicle. For the rest of the journey, I must focus only upon the photographs yet to be taken, patiently waiting for the time when the contents of my “hunting chest” will be revealed in the darkroom, all done in the same, time-tested, manner as has now prevailed for over one hundred and seventy years. I genuinely believe that the risk of finding a picture – or maybe everything – “wrong” drives a quest for perfection in composition and technique which contrasts, markedly, with the lack of care shown by the average digital photographer and the image easily deleted at the touch of a button.
My aim on every journey is to acquire a new skill before leaving home, this in the hope that I will succeed in applying it when out in the field. However, I have no way of knowing whether I have succeeded until all is revealed in the darkroom at journey’s end. Some would regard this as frustrating but it is my way of honoring this Art, not giving it up to consumerism, instant gratification, frenetic lifestyles and the banal and easy manipulation of images.