My name’s Dan and I’m a photographer. I started making darkroom photographs when I was about 10. I’ve made a career from the impulse to photograph, and help others do so. I’ve been working between photography and education for more than 15 years. It’s odd as it’s not what I studied – what I’ve learned through and about making photographs I’ve done independently, albeit with the valuable influence of a good number of inspiring people.
I don’t know why the darkroom drew me in, but there are some memories that align in the viewfinder of hindsight that can serve as landmarks:
I remember being scolded by my mum – I must have been about 4 – for opening an Agfa 110 camera, not opening the back, opening the viewfinder by pulling the body – unbeknownst to me cocking the wind on – open, which meant that even if you didn’t take a photo, frame an image, click that decisive aluminium lozenge, when you closed the body, it would wind on anyway. Pump action. I might well be misremembering the reason for my telling off – it doesn’t sound like a great design feature – or perhaps I’ve supplied a technical reason for the simple fact that I’d been playing with something not a toy, but I think I brought forward from that incident two essential qualities of photography: that a photograph is valuable; and that, at least for someone in the equation, a photograph is illicit, proscribed, powerful, and secret. It might seem an overstatement – I’ll decide later – but I think I’ve so long internalised or adopted these attitudes, that I’ve come to not even question them, or to only really examine them here, now. Hence a reverence for the black boxes, the shaded alchemy of silver halides waiting for the accession of their destiny, for the bellows and lenses, the brown odours and the slipping into light of little gloss slices of lost time.
Years later, visiting Uncle David in Bushey, I found in his cellar a tatty Italian 126 camera, and a load of Enid Blyton novels, all of which he kindly gave me, and with which I played while the adults talked above. I may have it somewhere – I moved on from the fiction without looking back – and I can still feel the click of the column shutter as I pressed it over and over again because now I could.