The Sustainable Darkroom

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  • November 2022, Installation for Albert de la Chapelle Art Foundation, Ekenäs, Finland

As part of the launching exhibition of the Albert de la Chapelle Art Foundation, The Sustainable Darkroom has been commissioned to produce an installation of artworks linking to its research.

  • May 2022, Solar Powered Website Building

We take this sustainability thing pretty seriously and we aim to make ecologically informed decisions and routes of action across all that we do. So adopting a digital presence and way of working that didn't align with our principles and priorities wasn't really an option.

Being materials based practitioners, digital tech and web building was not something any of us had embarked on or considered before. The website is still very much a work in progress and, like much of what we do, will continue to evolve, grow and change according to new research and learning. We are always welcome to suggestions, ideas and support.

  • December 2021, Hot Compost

A short walk from the Northern Sustainable Darkroom, down a busy road in Leeds, brings you to Hot Compost - our window gallery space situated within SCREW Gallery.

Hot Compost is a space for exhibiting photographic works and research exploring our material entanglements with wider worlds. It welcomes photography that doesn’t end with the image, but is an ongoing collaboration with our weird, living Earth. Not still life, but living being.

We drew inspiration from theorist Donna Haraway's notion that a hot compost pile is where we become-with each other; a hot, seething mess where we intermingle, collaborate and combine with the multi-species universe:

“Human beings are not in a separate compost pile. We are humus, not Homo, not anthropos; we are compost, not posthuman.”

And so Hot Compost is a space for these collaborations to be realised, through a broad understanding of the medium of photography - inspiring others to work mindfully with the more-than-human world.

This space exhibits regularly evolving research and works from The Sustainable Darkroom and our network of practitioners.

logo for hot compost

Located around the buildings and on the balcony of East Street Arts in Leeds, is our Photographic Garden. This small collection of planters, plants, compost bins, water butts and structures is a site for research and experimentation. It is a site for trial and error, and a place to develop and grow.

The garden was built and planted with the support of a couple of generous volunteers and East Street Arts, which too is home to our Northern Sustainable Darkroom space.

This garden does not just exist to look pretty or to clean the air from busy nearby roads, though both of these are valid reasons for its existence. The garden is constructed as a space of active collaboration - for the plants, earth, water, fungi and air to be engaged with as equal participants in the process of analogue image-making.

Between September 2021 - September 2022 we are supporting artists to realise research that links the garden to darkroom practice. Resident artists' research is diverse, encompassing:

Researching plant-based pigments for red-green-blue colour separations for paper printing, and cyan-magenta-yellow pigments for film processing Darkroom waste water management through the use of constructed wetlands Degradation of waste resin-coated photographic paper using fungi The effects of the moon cycle on plant biochemistry and their potential as developer chemistry Designing and building a solar powered digital camera, made from salvaged parts and triggered by non-human movements and interactions Possible alternatives to cyanotype solutions using plant extracts

Using seaweed as a material for moving image The incorporation of eco printing and plant printing into photographic paper printing Learning from and with grass-roots and permaculture communities to share skills and knowledge across growing food and photography Researching effects of pH and temperature change on plant pigments, and their toning potential to silver gelatin film

Research release date: September 2022.

Artists in Residence: Matthew Beach Michaela Davidova [Jonathan Bradley] (https://www.instagram.com/brad_photo/) Alice Campos and Daisy Jacobs Charlotte Smithson Felix Loftus James Sewell

Access Artists: Martha Cattell Marjolaine Ryley Scarlett Pimlott-Brown Elliot Williams Sean O’Connell

The garden and the accompanying research being carried out by our artists in residence is part of the Genesis Kick starter fund, funded by Genesis Foundation.

dirty hands and trowel in planting beds

One of the benefits of being a small, artist-run organisation, is that we can adapt and respond to the needs of those in The Sustainable Darkroom community. After our 2 online residencies in 2020, we noticed that individuals located in all corners of the globe wanted to share and be part of growing research. From the Outer Hebrides in Scotland, to the Canadian Rockies; to deserts of South America and cities of South Korea - interest in sustainable darkroom practice could not be confined to a single region or space.

Beyond the surface of social media, we want to connect individuals, maintain critical conversations, and provide continued support. We see huge value in allowing space for criticism, mutual learning, and resource sharing. So, we launched a Patreon; a space where individuals can pay a small monthly sum in exchange for support, resources, tips and Edd’s bad jokes.

Patreon allows us to provide this, while also giving The Sustainable Darkroom some financial stability.

  • January 2021, Developments in Environmentally Friendly Conscious Experimental Cinema Symposium

This online symposium brought together 6 moving image practitioners and researchers to discuss environmental considerations and approaches to working with experimental cinema. It explored developments in non-toxic photochemical processes, the use of celluloid in a sustainable filmmaking practice, and relationships between gardens and darkrooms. Discussions arose around the aesthetic and political implications of these techniques, processes and materials.

Panel of speakers: Dagie Brundert Phillip Hoffman Kim Knowles Ricardo Leite Joanna Mayes General Treegan (aka Andrés Pardo) Chaired by Hannah Fletcher

sections of 16mm film developed in various plant based developers from wastes

  • November 2020, (This is (still) Not A Solution)

Our second publication, This is (still) Not A Solution, is a culmination of recipes, essays, ideas, reflections and poetry towards a more sustainable analogue photographic practice. It was produced as a result of the April 2020 Sustainable Darkroom residency. During this time we gathered online throughout the month of April to investigate the themes of Recycle, Remove, Repurpose and Rework and their relationship to analogue photography.

petridishes filled with bioplastic and cyanotype chemistry

  • October 2020, Northern Sustainable Darkroom

The Northern Sustainable Darkroom is a physical facility located at East Street Arts, in Leeds. It is run by Edd Carr, who participated in The Sustainable Darkroom’s Remove micro residency in April 2020. Northern Sustainable Darkroom partly arose out of Edd's residency research paper: Stare into the Caffenol to Reveal Your Future.

Within the paper, Edd makes the suggestion that the way forward could be within the framework of de-centralised collectives, like 'mycelium linking beneath the soil sharing miraculous electric signals. A decentralised network of collectives, organised around this ethos, offers an ecological highway to consumer capitalism’s ruinous my way.”

Extending the tendrils of The Sustainable Darkroom, Edd proposed the manifestation of a physical space in the north of the UK. Gaining the space and support from East Street Arts, work began on the darkroom in October 2020 and opened its doors in March 2021.

logo for Northern Sustainable Darkroom

  • July 2020, Test. Grow. Learn. Test Lab residency

Having had our physical residency with Guest Projects interrupted due to lock down measures, Guest projects offered an online framework for the residency. This month-long research and development residency worked with 15 artists to focus on refining research with the help of international experts. Working digitally with the support of 4 scientists across various fields, we created a virtual ‘Test Lab’.

The residency culminated in a series of online workshops and a freely distributed workshop guidebook to go alongside.

Artists in Residence: William Arnold John Blythe Dagie Brundert Alice Cazenave Gem Toes-Crichton Kim Conway Karel Doing Ramona Guntert Russell Marx Laura de Moxom Andrés Pardo Simon Park Julia Parks Noora Sandgren Sophie Sherwood Marina Vitaglione

Supporting Scientists: Dr Simon Park Stephen Harris Andrea Barbieri

section of page from The workshop guide book showing Phytogram by Karel Doing

  • April 2020, Remove, Rework, Repurpose, Recycle micro-residencies

Over the course of 1 month, The Sustainable Darkroom worked with 24 artists to address the themes Remove, Rework, Repurpose and Recycle. These ‘R’s, as we have come to refer to them as, could be taken as a permaculture-esque production mantra for individuals and photography collectives around the world. “Although the residencies offered space for experimentation under these themes, the groundwork now exists for them to become operational paradigms for individuals and photographic collectives eager for sustainable transformation.” (Edd Carr)

Remove:The removal of toxic elements within photographic processes and in future production. For example the use of plant-based developers, salt water fixative, paper negatives or plant based alternatives to gelatine.

Rework:The internalisation and minimisation of the impacts that processes and materials have. To work towards more regenerative processes and circular systems, as well as the cross-pollination across other local processes, systems and spaces - such as the use of plants to filter contaminated waters back into the darkroom.

Repurpose:The constant upkeep and management of old cameras and tech, whilst also advocating and developing alternative ways of image-making with what we have around us. Such as anthotypes from a sad spinach leaves, and pinhole cameras made from waste products and tricky to recycle items.

Recycle: The conversion of waste materials into valuable matter to be utilised by the photographic industry and across other disciplines and industries. Activating all outputs to become 'vibrant-matter'. Such as reclaiming silver particles from used photographic fixer to be utilised by other applications such as jewelry making.

Artists in Residence:

Remove: William Arnold Crystal Bennes John Blyth Ed Carr Karel Doing Hannah Fletcher (lead artist) Martha Gray Melanie King (lead artist)

Rework: Alice Cazenave Nettie Edwards Hannah Fletcher (lead artist) James Hankey Elsa Pont Eva Sajovic Gem Toes-Crichton Eileen White

Repurpose: Kate Bell Laura Copsey Nettie Edwards (lead artist) Hannah Fletcher (lead artist) Jemma Foster Megan Ringrose Sean Roy-Parker [Emily Rudge]https://www.instagram.com/emily_rudge/)

Recycle: Antonia Beard Hannah Fletcher (lead artist) Rowan Lear Carolina Mitsukahttps://www.instagram.com/carolinamitsuka/ Charlotte Padgham Simone Steenberg Diego Valente (lead artist)

circular system designed by James Hankey during Rework residency

  • November 2019, [This is Not A Solution](http://www.londonaltphoto.com/shop/this-is-not-a-solution)

Our first publication was launched as part of The Future of Living weekend at Tate Exchange with 198 and People’s Bureau. The weekend-long series of events explored the future of living in times of great uncertainty. We gathered as artists, environmental protesters, land reparation activists, decolonial community organisers and academics to activate the space. We took a practical, conceptual and theoretical look at re-skilling, sustainable and collaborative practice, material use, ancestral knowledge, and system changes. Through building, crafting, workshopping and conversing together, we considered what the necessary materials and skills might be for building resilient futures.

The publication is filled with our first recipes, ideas, questions and thoughts towards creating a more sustainable darkroom photographic practice following on from our 2019 residency. The residency and the subsequent publication manifests as an opening of dialogue, a site of enquiry, and a field of discovery.

double page spread from the publication

  • June 2019, Residency at XYZ Books, Lisboa, Portugal

Our first residency was self-funded by those involved. It brought together 6 artists to ask the question: What do we mean by an environmentally-friendly analogue photographic practice? This residency raised a lot of questions and problems, with few answers. These initial enquiries formed the basis for much of The Sustainable Darkroom's future research and lines of enquiry.

The residency culminated in the publication This Is Not A Solution and a series of workshops provided to the local community.

Residency participants:

hand holding sheet of agar bioplastic