Making Contact with our Surroundings through Photography
A new photography exhibition, opening at the Down Arts Centre on 8 March, uses the medium of antique cameras and vintage paper to explore the contact and relationship between people and their surroundings.
Based in Crossgar County Down, but originally from Scotland, art photographer Alan Thomson uses two large format bellows cameras circa 1916 to produce negatives onto black and white photographic paper. These negatives are then developed in a homemade darkroom and printed on vintage photographic paper. The technique requires patience as well as skill and Alan ends up with intimate photographs of the local landscape and industrial heritage and their relationship with the people who live there, building up his understanding over months and years.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairman, Councillor Mark Murnin said, “I’m very pleased to welcome this fascinating exhibition to Down Arts Centre. By photographing these overlooked places in our area Alan helps us rediscover our heritage and how we relate to it.
“Most of us now take our photographs using digital technology which takes only minutes. The older technology that Alan employs requires time, composition and skill and results in thoughtful and atmospheric photographs.”
Photography using large format cameras and darkroom processing is a slower and more exacting process than the more modern photographic methods. Not only does it require the film to be loaded or preloaded in a dark space, the photographer decides the camera settings manually, relying on skill to ensure a perfect exposure. When the image is finally being developed, the photographer must ensure that the correct mix of chemicals and developing time is used or it will be lost. The resulting prints are of a very high quality and often produce more contemplative pictures that are produced by more conventional photography.
Alan’s photographs are all taken within a five-mile radius of his home and encompasses views of fields, along roadsides, rivers and disused industrial artefacts and is focused on the points where nature and man-made histories meet. The result is an image that resonates with the viewer.