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What Goes on in a Dark Room?

Black backfrop with white xray like images of objects including necklace, clothes peg, clothes pins and keys

A darkroom is a space that feels different from anywhere else in the world. Once you’ve shut the door to the outside world, the dim red light heightens all your other senses. You switch your phone off, speak quieter and concentrate on your work, moving with more purpose. The air is thick with chemicals and you experiment over and over again, trying to find the right combination of processes to get the perfect image. But seeing your photograph for the first time as it slowly appears on the paper is a beautiful moment of excitement, one that’s absolutely unique to the darkroom.

This slow and meditative process is how Roman Vishniac would have seen his photographs for the first time. So, it seemed obvious that for a late event celebrating Vishniac’s work, we should build our own darkroom. With just a few days to go, we’ve drawn up the plans, enlisted the help of darkroom technicians, ordered the material, and designed a workshop that will allow each visitor to create their own piece of work to take away.

When they come into our darkroom, visitors will be making photograms, a form of work practised by Vishniac’s contemporary Man Ray. These are camera-less photographs – shadow portraits that create beautiful and abstract work out of everyday objects. Our event’s image is a photogram created by one of our event programmers and is made using objects that she brought to the darkroom from her flat. By capturing these objects, she created a little portrait of her home, and we’re hoping that you’ll come and do the same.

[The dark room is one of many events you can take part in on Thursday 7 February for Capturing Your World: Photography Late. This late has been programmed by UCL Museum Studies MA students and takes inspiration from our current exhibition Roman Vishniac Rediscovered.