Daily Picture Show

The Last Of London's Darkrooms

I've never met Richard Nicholson, but I know we have at least one thing in common: "The photographic darkroom was my way into photography," he writes via email. "When I was 10 years old, my father built a darkroom at home and taught me how to develop and print film."

My dad built a darkroom in our house, too; in the laundry room, to be exact. And though I didn't pick up a camera myself until many years later, I think the weird red light and chemical smells must have had some formative influence.

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Most photographers probably have some sort of similar darkroom story — but we may not be able to say that for much longer. Nicholson recalls that in the '90s, darkrooms were busy, exciting places for commercial photographers in London: "There was a real buzz in these places," he writes,"a sense of competition, but also communality."

About a decade later, he was struck by how much had changed. "I came up with idea for this project when printing in one of these hire darkrooms. The buzz had gone. No one else was there. It seemed like a desolate, abandoned place. I was struck by the bulky, lumpen beauty of the photographic enlargers."

And so began his project, Last One Out, Please Turn On The Light, a documentation of London's remaining professional darkrooms. A mere five years after starting the project, more than half of the darkrooms in the series are no longer operational.

"I wanted to capture the darkroom before it disappeared," Nicholson says. "I choose to photograph the darkrooms of professional printers as these represent the essence of the craft."

Have you ever been in a darkroom? Always wanted to? Spent years in one? Share your story.

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