In the darkroom





Guest contributor Tom Bates will be launching his new venture Shots/onStone later in the year. Here he shares his thoughts on his favourite photographers pushing the boundaries of experimental darkroom photography – the sometimes overlooked period of creativity between the click of the shutter and the final print.

Since last year, I have had my own darkroom and have been exploring the possibilities of what can be done with the silver gelatin process. My love for analog photography has led me to start Shots/onStone, where I develop photographic images on natural stone in a darkroom. I am constantly searching for new ideas and techniques to experiment with and would like to share some of my heroes in the world of photography with you today. These talented photographers have helped open my eyes to the potential of what can be done in a darkroom.


I found out about Timothy Pakron when looking into the technique of selective development. This is where rather than developing a whole photograph, you selectively develop the areas you want and leave the other areas undeveloped. Pakron is a master of doing this with images of the human face. He paints certain areas of the paper with developer and allows the developer to then run down. This makes for very emotive images, with the drips reminiscent of hair strands or tears streaking down his subjects.

Image – Untitled, hand-painted gelatin silver print, one of a kind, 2011-2013, from the series ‘Silver Drips’, by Timothy Pakron.



Michal Macků invented a very impressive technique he calls ‘Gellage’ (joining the words ‘Gelatin’ and ‘Collage’). For these works, he separates the exposed and fixed image from the base of the photographic paper and then reworks it onto a new piece of paper. In doing so, Macků is able to create clever manipulations where he breaks the emulsion in surreal ways.

Image – Gellage No. 6, 1989, limited edition 12 copies, from the series ‘Gellage’, by Michal Macků.













At a time way before Photoshop, Jerry Uelsmann was using pure darkroom techniques to create totally surreal images. He is someone whose work makes me think that one needs to understand the process behind an image to truly appreciate it. Of course, graphic designers nowadays can recreate the look of Uelsmann’s work but that fact misunderstands that there is value to an artwork beyond what we see. Once you get a sense of the amazing skill it takes to create this kind of Photomontage without the help of digital tools, I for one appreciate them all the more.

Image – Untitled, 1969, by Jerry Uelsmann.



Jill Enfield has worked a lot using liquid emulsion on tiles, which relates very closely to the technique I work with of using liquid emulsion on natural stone. I really like how she often works using a grid of tiles to create a bigger image. This is certainly something I would like to also try soon in order to create some larger scale pieces.

Image – Liquid emulsion on tiles, by Jill Enfield.



David Prifti was a master of using photographic emulsion on all kinds of surfaces. Often he worked using broken fragments of objects such as metal and rock and I think this adds a very interesting dynamic to the images he developed on them.

Image by David Prifti