Analog Photography making a comeback is no longer a news per se. The low-cost, efficient, and faster digital photography served the purpose quite well. It was commercially more viable, and most of the practicing photographers around the world shifted to the digital. The shift didn’t come without a loss. Especially, in the Indian context, many had nonchalantly thrown away the older cameras and precious negatives for good. The traditional analog photography practices were deceivingly bracketed as ‘alternative photography’, creating a dreamy, nostalgic, and elusive aura around it.
But then, all along, there were a few keepers, “the analog guardians” who continued the traditional photographic practices, in India as well as around the world. The high cost and reduced access to films and papers didn’t deter them. The process of using hands to create photographic prints does add an earthly yet ethereal dimension to photography. The works created by these exceptional photographers during this ‘analog to digital shift process’ are indeed unique in form, content and expression. Photography was not just a one-click technique, but rather a complex alchemical process requiring precision and practice. Over time, these photographers also introduced interesting compositions and content, further pushing the accepted boundaries of the photographic medium. There are quite a few notable analog photographers around the world, such as Annie Leibovitz, Annie Leibovitz, and Daniel Skwarna. Close home, Indian photographers Abul Kalam Azad, Alex Fernandes, Ram Rahman, French photographers, Thierry Cardon, Yannick Cormier, are a few names that come to mind. Most of them used both analog and digital photography but had a special preference for the former.
As far as the market is concerned, it creates trends to increase demand. Time and again, the old are reintroduced as new in-demand products. In this case, it is presented as the 21st-century analog renaissance attracting the young and mid-career photographers. The surge of fancy products, better access, and easy use are paving the way for the so-called analog comeback. In 2018, Ilford organized a ‘Global film users survey’ among more than 5,000 photographers from around the world. It probed the possibilities for “converting” the digital practitioners to take up analog photography. Lack of darkroom space came out as an important setback. Almost 2 years later, Ilford has recently announced portable pop-up photo darkroom tents as the go-getter strategy.
This portable set-up was announced during the four-day (18 – 21 September 2020) The Photography Show, Birmingham, UK. The external metal frame is approximately 2.2m tall when erected and should fit in most standard ceiling height rooms, says Ilford, while still creating a workable 1.3 x 1.3m space to print while standing or seated. A durable light-tight black material clips to the frame while an accompanying ground mat offers protection for your flooring and can be fastened to the darkroom material. A built-in air vent at the base of the darkroom allows for an optional fan/air blower to be used and once sealed, the incoming air will also expand the inner dimensions. The whole contraption fits in a supplied storage bag measuring 68 x 25 x 25cm and weighing 8kg / 17.5lbs.
Ilford is yet to announce the price, yet it is said that when the pop-up darkroom goes on sale in November it will sell for around Rs. 20,000/- ($265).
To accompany the darkroom-in-a-bag, Ilford is also launching a darkroom starter kit – that they have produced in conjunction with Paterson. This will include:
• 1 x Ilford Multigrade RC Deluxe Pearl Paper 8×10” 25 sheet box
• 1 x Ilford Multigrade Developer 500ml bottle
• 1 x Ilford Ilfostop 500ml bottle
• 1 x Ilford Rapid FIXER 500ml bottle
• 1 x Paterson 1,200ml Graduate Cylinder
• 1 x Paterson 150ml Graduate Cylinder
• 1 x Paterson Chemical Mixer
• 1 x Paterson Thermometer Small (9”)
• 3 x Paterson 8×10 Trays (Red / White / Grey)
• 3 x Paterson Print Tongs (Red / White / Grey)
• 1 x Paterson Micro Focus Finder
Ilford Starter Kit gives everything one need for film printing – apart from an enlarger and a safelight. It is expected to cost around Rs. 12000/- ($150). That’s all too neatly packed and attractive. Of course, it is not sure yet whether the product will be available in India this November or not. However, whether you are an analog photographer who was forced to shift to the digital, or the analog guardians or the new-comers or the young minds who wish to probe analog for the first time, Ilford’s pop-up photo darkroom tents are something to look forward to.