Labor Intensive

March/ April

My work station: enlarger, light table and all that film developed after my shoot.

Mixing chemistry in my darkroom sink

The month of April has come and gone so quickly. Going into the darkroom is like going underwater. By the time I am ready to come up for air I am gasping for breath and weeks have gone by.

Being in the darkroom, sorting through negatives, figuring out what to print and what to leave for another day is all about process... It takes time to allow the images to resolve in ones' own eye; they have to settle, to sit... in order to mature as an image. This isn't something that can be hastily done. Making art and creating a body of work is, labor intensive. And it has to occur in its own time; something that I have learned, not to fight. Days and days can go by and I am still dreaming about the images; what size to make them and what they contribute to the larger body of work.

There are always the few negatives I recognize has prized, even as the film is pulled from the tanks and hung to dry in the darkroom. The excitement of seeing the sequential frames, and the few that pop out as nascent images is what makes darkroom work exciting. I often can't wait to get to the darkroom and print - I am in such a hurry to "see."

Once the contact sheets are made, the images begin to settle... I start to circle the ones I will make test prints of and sort the contacts into several stacks. Sometimes I have to put them down and retreat from the darkroom for a few days, in order to let the images resolve within me.

I am always reminding myself, there is a difference between taking the photographs, (and the thrill of being on location with the wind in my hair) and making the photographs, (slogging through negatives and prints in a wet darkroom under amber light). Not all the photographs made on location, translate into black and white prints. But many of them do. And my job now, and over the summer, is to find the prints that will complete the Africa VI: Tuareg Portfolio and begin to dream the Akan Fisherman portfolio into being.

Excerpt from my studio journal

Elisabeth Sunday


  1. I learned about you from the art ltd, review. Really like your work. I cannot figure out the distortion or warping effect in your photographs but that's okay. Then when I was scrolling down your blog I was happy to find pictures of the darkroom. It has been a very long time since I've been in a darkroom. Good memories.

    1. Thanks Alexander- I love the darkroom! Soft lights and sounds. Developing photographs... heaven.
      Check out the Field Notes blog for more information on how I shoot. All the best, E.


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