Collecting, Planting, Cooking, and Developing with the Sustainable Darkroom
by Hannah Fletcher
As artists and makers, creators and thinkers, it is essential that we take responsibility for the outputs of the work we produce, the materials we use and the waste we create. I am working to reshape our understanding of the photographic ecosystem, to put ecologically considered materials and approaches at its focus. Perhaps you had not before taken into consideration the impact of the processes you use and materials you work with. Working within analogue photography, over the past few years I have become acutely aware of toxic chemicals being poured down the drain, litres of water used every minute to wash films and prints, piles and piles of test prints on resin-coated papers heading straight for landfills, bovine gelatine coating papers and films, etc. What I have come to realise is that we need to think about the whole ecosystem within which our art practice is situated. From the mines that are dug to harvest the silver, to the pipes that carry away our used chemicals.
Recipes for making plant-based film developers at home
Lacto-fermented Wild Garlic Photographic Developer (35mm)
• 1tsp Sea salt
• 250g Wild garlic
• 40g Washing Soda
• 5g Vitamin C
1. Wash and roughly chop the wild garlic.
2. In a bowl, massage the sea salt into the greens. It can take up to 15 minutes for the salt to start breaking down the plant fibres, thereby releasing liquid.
3. Put a dish over the plant matter followed by a heavy weight to weigh it down for 24 hours. The plant matter needs to be completely submerged by the liquids.
4. Transfer the plant matter and liquids into a jar. Again place a weight in the jar to weigh down the liquid and keep it submerged.
5. Leave at room temperature for 2 weeks.
6. Remove the weight, seal the jar and store in the fridge, ready for any time you need to develop your film.
7. Strain 100ml of liquid out from your lacto-fermented wild garlic into a jug (eat the wild garlic for your next meal).
8. Add 200ml of warm (just above room temperature) water.
9. Add 40g washing soda and stir until fully dissolved.
10. Add 5g of vitamin C powder and stir until dissolved.
11. Solution is now ready to develop your film or store in the fridge until you have a film to develop (mark clearly as not for
Stewed Bladderwrack Seaweed Photographic Developer (35mm)
40g Bladderwrack seaweed
50g Washing soda
10g Vitamin C
- Collect bladderwrack seaweed either washed up on the beach or fresh (if harvesting it fresh then be sure to cut from the plant and leave the base of the seaweed attached to the rocks).
- Boil with 400ml of water for 10 mins and leave overnight to steep.
- Strain the solution and keep the seaweed to make pesto.
- Add 50g washing soda to 300ml of seaweed solution and stir until fully dissolved.
- Add 10g of vitamin C powder and stir until dissolved.
- Solution is now ready to develop your film or store in the fridge until you have a film to develop (mark clearly as not for human consumption).
- Before use, heat solution to 26 degrees Celsius.
HOW TO DEVELOP YOUR FILM:
- In complete darkness, load your film onto your spool and into your developing tank.
- Fill the tank with water and leave for 1 min, then tip out water into a bowl to use later during washing.
- Pour your solution into tank and develop for 15 mins, with agitation every 30 seconds.
- Pour out and keep in a jar in the fridge to develop up to 4 more films.
- Use water or water + 100ml basic vinegar in place of stop.
- Agitate for 2 mins, then pour out and save vinegar mix and keep for use on another film.
- Mix up a highly saline solution —this means as much salt as you can dissolve into 300ml water as possible.
- Pour salt solution into tank and agitate for 1 minute. Leave salt solution in tank for 24 hours, agitating for 1 minute every hour (other than when sleeping).
- Pour out salt solution and keep for use on another film.
- Wash film for 20 mins (do not leave the tap running), fill up the tank and then tip into a container, use this same water to continue washing for a few minutes, then refill with fresh water, pouring the other water on the garden. Continue like this until the full 20 mins is up.
- Hang film to dry.
For more ideas and information on The Sustainable Darkroom project, you can visit www.londonaltphoto.com and www.hannahfletcher.com. The Sustainable Darkroom is an initiative by Hannah Fletcher to equip cultural practitioners with new skills and knowledge to develop a more environmentally friendly analogue photography / darkroom practice.
HANNAH FLETCHER is a London based artist, working with cameraless photographic processes, a facilitator and Co-director of London Alternative Photography Collective. Hannah Fletcher’s work intertwines organic matter such as soils, algae, mushrooms and roots into analogue photographic mediums and surfaces — simultaneously, exploring environmentally and ecologically-focused issues. Working in an investigative, pseudo-scientific and environmentally conscious manner, Hannah combines scientific techniques with photographic processes, creating a dialogue between the poetic and political. Most recently, she has initiated and is running The Sustainable Darkroom Project: an artist-run research, training and mutual learning programme to equip cultural practitioners with new skills and knowledge to develop a more environmentally friendly analogue photography / darkroom practice. www.hannahfletcher.com