If you missed darkroom member Christine Saxena-Walter’s wonderful Instagram Takeover of the darkroom account, here’s an opportunity to catch-up on her story before you head over there to check out her pictures.
How did you get into film-based photography?
I got my first camera at 16, a Canon A1 which I have just recently retrieved from my parents’ loft. Shortly after this I started developing films at home, but it took me a few years before I had the courage (and pocket money) to rent a darkroom in town for a few hours and try printing. I grew to love the grain and the physicality of the creative process (from developing film negatives to making prints). Then studies and life took over and digital cameras became more affordable; consequently my film camera got shelved and I bought a digital camera.
How did you find the transition to digital
I did continue printing my digital work, mainly in the form of zine or books for family and friends. A year or so ago my computer crashed, and although I had backed up most of my work, it took me days to retrieve what I wanted to save. Despite this, I am sure thousands of my pictures are on a cloud somewhere never to be looked at again. This felt like the perfect time to go back to film photography, which I did with a small investment of £30 on a Holga and a couple of medium format films.
What was it like returning to analogue?
One roll and I was hooked! I love the gestures of loading a film, advancing it, the sound of it, and most of all just being in the moment, not looking at the back of my camera to see whether the shot is good or not. I got that first roll developed and small prints made and that was it: I had seen again what I had been missing all those digital years - the grain! I began to lust after another medium format camera. I have always liked the look of twin lens reflex cameras and never having tried one I decided to buy a good entry level Yashica 124G on eBay.
What brought you to Darkroom?
After some research I took a film processing workshop at Darkroom to refresh my memory and ended up joining as a member on the spot. Despite living an hour and half from London, I love the experience of working here. It has enabled me to continue improving as a photographer with the help and tips of Phil Grey, Verdi Yahooda and Dennis Yandoli, as well as the other members. I particularly love printing on fibre paper. It is a slower process than printing on resin coated and it is fraught with more difficulties, but the end result is a print which has more depth. I find that a bit of selenium toning can be particularly good to bring out the light and deepen the black.
Tell us a bit about your working processes?
Occasionally, I have a chance to go to cities abroad for short visits, often linked with work or family. Obviously, I take my camera with me, but my photo opportunities are brief and often just for an hour or so before breakfast. Over time I have come to cherish these opportunities, rather than feeling frustration at the lack of time. I now focus on capturing my first emotions and impressions of a new place. How does the light fall and bounce in this city? How do people move about this city? What are its rhythm? This is what excites me about those quick visits. I do the minimal amount of research and let the light guide me around the city.
I recently went to Prague for the first time. I had been looking forward to seeing this historic, cultural city, but Prague is now incredibly crowded with tourists the whole day and most of the night. However, like most cities it has retained its original charm early in the morning when residents wake up and the morning light gently brushes buildings. I visited Josef Sudek’s studio and darkroom which is now a gallery. Fortunately, it is rarely visited by the tourist hordes as it is located on the quieter side of the river and is well worth a visit, although only his original sink remains in place.
What are you working on now?
Although I live in the countryside, I spend a few days each week in London for work and pleasure. I love London with its quirkiness and energy. I have started a new project in Soho and have another in Brittany, where I have been going on holiday to the same spot for well over 20 years. I can’t think of a better slice of paradise; it is my cocoon, where I recharge with family and friends. I have decided to re-discover this small place I know so well. I take nothing for granted; I walk around with my camera with an open heart and mind and I am making wonderful discoveries.
Use the link at the bottom of the page to head over to see Christine’s Darkroom Instagram Takeover.