It was set up in the summer of 2012. I’d first come to the Old Print Works in 2010, in the very early days of its current incarnation as a post-industrial multi-use space. I’d set up a darkroom at the now-defunct but then-remarkable Bordesley Centre of Contemporary Arts (BCCA), in the space that has since become A3 Project Space, sharing the studio with Chris Poolman and Newso. I think I’ve still got a piece of the fabled Bordesley Stone from those long ago days, but that’s another story! I was moving Syria in September 2010, and asked Ian Greenwood if I could store my darkroom kit at the OPW. He kindly obliged, and, 10 months later, when the peaceful protests against the Assad regime began to spiral towards civic insecurity and later armed conflict and the brutal civil war that continues to this day, we left our new life in Damascus and came back to Birmingham.
I ended up living at the OPW, involved in the project’s early days through Elisabeth Charis, my then partner, trying to get back to the freelance photography / community art career I’d dropped to go and teach in Syria. As it turned out, the building formerly housing Butcher’s Printed Products had 3 darkroom spaces, and I conflated 2 of them into what is now Darkroom Birmingham, plumbing in the disconnected, purpose built, bottom lit silk screen inspection sink, hoisting the rotary light-lock door onto the neighbouring mezzanine and through the dismantled window, and gradually building a programme of courses, participatory documentary photography projects, and a space accessed by a loose, shifting, community of photographers.
I’m in the process of reappraising the work that made a home there, and working out what the future can hold, so I’ll be adding more content to this and my own photography website in the coming months. Watch, as they say, this space.