The darkroom

Artist Richard Nicholson has set out to capture these fast-disappearing spaces, photographing darkrooms – and the memories they hold – across London. View the video here:

Richard Nicholson spent three years photographing commercial photographic darkrooms in London. When he began his project in 2006, there were more than 200 thriving darkrooms dotted around the city; when he completed it in 2009, there were 12.

“When I started as a young photographer about 10 years ago,” he says, “I’d go to Photofusion in Brixton or Joe’s Basement in Soho and these places would be bustling with young photographers. Often, you had to book days, sometimes weeks, in advance. Now the darkrooms that have survived are quiet and business is slow. The London labs where you could drop film off have all but disappeared – Joe’s Basement has gone and so have Primary [Colour], Metro Soho, Ceta, Sky and countless others. We are really witnessing the end of a photographic era.”

The coming of the digital camera has swept all before it, making the whole process of photography simpler, less labour-intensive, less costly and more technically creative. But as has been the case with music production, something has also been lost along the way, something intangible but powerful that the music writer Greg Milner called “presence”: the human element in the production of sound and images.

A small group exhibition, entitled Analog, opens at the Riflemaker gallery in London on 11 January. Its subtext is “presence”: the human ghost in the machine. The show includes Nicholson’s photographs of the last-surviving London darkrooms alongside an installation by Lewis Durham (of the young rockabilly group Kitty, Daisy & Lewis) in which he has recreated a reel-to-reel, multitracked tape studio, as well as works by interactive design duo Zigelbaum + Coelho and artist Clare Mitten, who has constructed laptop and mobile phone-like sculptures from packaging and stationery.

Analog is a kind of elegy for the pre-digital era of sound and photographic production and Nicholson’s prints are the most elegiac components in the mix. He has photographed each darkroom on large format film, working in total darkness with a flashgun. The result might have been what Nicholson calls “a detached typology of modernist industrial design” in which the enlarger stands at the centre, strangely human in its form. Except that these darkrooms are also human dens, full of the clutter of human endeavour – Post-it notes, piles of prints, boxes of paper, toys, rulers, marker pens and batches of photographs pinned to boards.

“I had a few epiphanies while doing this project,” says Nicholson, a soft-spoken, thin, bespectacled, ex-philosophy graduate, “and one was the realisation that the world of work, particularly a craft like darkroom printing, has becoming utterly homogenised in the digital era. Even just a few years ago, every profession had its own machinery, its tools, its language; now all we have are computers.”

Read more:

Below is a gallery of darkroom that bring back some great memories. (Not all of these are photographs are Richard’s)




























William Klein – The anti-photographer’s photographer

As an artist using photography, he set out to re-invent the photographic document. His photos, often blurred or out of focus, his high-contrast prints (his negatives were often severely over-exposed), his use of high-grain film and wide angles shocked the established order of the photography world and he earned a reputation as an anti-photographer’s photographer.

william_klienFrom 1955 to 1965 William Klein worked for Vogue. He preferred to photograph his models out in the street or on location. he was not particularly interested in clothes or fashion, and used this opportunity to reasearch the picture making process by introducing new techniques to fashion photography, including the use of wide-angle and long-focus lenses, long exposures combined with flash and multiple exposures -making fashion an area of innovation in photography.

From 1965 to the early 80s, he abandoned photography and primarily concentrated on film, making various documentaries: ‘broadway by light’ (1958), ‘who are you polly maggoo?’ (1966) ‘mr. freedom’, ‘muhammad ali the greatest’, ‘the little richard story’ (1979), ‘the messiah'(1999).

Klein returned to still photography in the 1980s due to a renewed interest in his early work.his photographs of this period are characterized by his use of close-ups and wide angle lenses.

During the 90s he continued to create mixed media works using painting and photography. He received the hasselblad prize and various retrospectives of his films were organized in new york and japan. he was awarded the agfa-bayer/hugo erfurt prize and created in & out of fashion, a mixed media project including drawings, photographs and film, which was published simultaneously with shows in London, Paris and New York. In 1997 he rephotographed new york and had shows in barcellona and paris. In 1999 he was awarded the ‘medal of the century’ by the royal photographic society’ in London.

















Elliott Erwitt – the master of the ‘indecisive moment’

Born in Paris on 26th July of 1928 to Russian-Jewish parents, Erwitt spent his childhood in Milan, then emigrated to the US, via France, with his family in 1939. As a teenager living in Hollywood, he developed an interest in photography and worked in a commercial darkroom before experimenting with photography at Los Angeles City College. In 1948 he moved to New York and exchanged janitorial work for film classes at the New School for Social Research.

Erwitt traveled in France and Italy in 1949 with his trusty Rolleiflex camera. In 1951 he was drafted for military service and undertook various photographic duties while serving in a unit of the Army Signal Corps in Germany and France.

profilerWhile in New York, Erwitt met Edward Steichen, Robert Capa and Roy Stryker, the former head of the Farm Security Administration. Stryker initially hired Erwitt to work for the Standard Oil Company, where he was building up a photographic library for the company, and subsequently commissioned him to undertake a project documenting the city of Pittsburgh.

Good photography is just about seeing. You either see, or you don’t see. The rest is academic. Photography is simply a function of noticing things. Nothing more

In 1953 Erwitt joined Magnum Photos and worked as a freelance photographer for Collier’s, Look, Life, Holiday and other luminaries in that golden period for illustrated magazines. To this day he is for hire and continues to work for a variety of journalistic and commercial outfits.

In the late 1960s Erwitt served as Magnum’s president for three years. He then turned to film: in the 1970s he produced several noted documentaries and in the 1980s eighteen comedy films for Home Box Office. Erwitt became known for benevolent irony, for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings – the master of the ‘indecisive moment’ and for a humanistic sensibility traditional to the spirit of Magnum.














Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946)

Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1864, and schooled as an engineer in Germany, Alfred Stieglitz returned to New York in 1890 determined to prove that photography was a medium as capable of artistic expression as painting or sculpture. As the editor of Camera Notes, the journal of the Camera Club of New York—an association of amateur photography enthusiasts—Stieglitz espoused his belief in the aesthetic potential of the medium and published work by photographers who shared his conviction. When the rank-and-file membership of the Camera Club began to agitate against his restrictive editorial policies, Stieglitz and several like-minded photographers broke away from the group in 1902 to form the Photo-Secession, which advocated an emphasis on the craftsmanship involved in photography. Most members of the group made extensive use of elaborate, labor-intensive techniques that underscored the role of the photographer’s hand in making photographic prints, but Stieglitz favored a slightly different approach in his own work. Although he took great care in producing his prints, often making platinum prints—a process renowned for yielding images with a rich, subtly varied tonal scale—he achieved the desired affiliation with painting through compositional choices and the use of natural elements like rain, snow, and steam to unify the components of a scene into a visually pleasing pictorial whole.

Alfred Stieglitz returned to New York in 1890 determined to prove that photography was a medium as capable of artistic expression as painting or sculpture.

Continue reading Alfred Stieglitz (1864–1946)

The Beauty of Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was one of old hollywood’s biggest stars. She appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine’s cover a record 14 times, starting when she was just 15 years old, and over the following decades many of LIFE’s finest photographers — Paul Schutzer, Peter Stackpole, Allan Grant and George Silk among them — captured the quintessential movie star in love, at work and basking (with consummate grace) in the kind of international fame, comprised of equal parts respect and adulation, that most entertainers today can only dream about.

During a career that spanned six decades, the legendary beauty with lavender eyes won two Oscars and made more than 50 films, performing alongside such fabled leading men as Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, whom she married twice. She took her cues from a Who’s Who of directors, including George Cukor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens, Vincente Minnelli and Mike Nichols.

Long after she faded from the screen, she remained a mesmerizing figure, blessed and cursed by the extraordinary celebrity that molded her life through its many phases: She was a child star who bloomed gracefully into an ingenue; a femme fatale on the screen and in life; a canny peddler of high-priced perfume; a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS.

The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.
Elizabeth Taylor

Some actresses, such as Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman, won more awards and critical plaudits, but none matched Taylor’s hold on the collective imagination. In the public’s mind, she was the dark goddess for whom playing Cleopatra as she did with such notoriety, required no great leap from reality.

Here is a celebration of an extraordinary women.






















Remembering Richard Avedon

RICHARD AVEDON Richard Avedon (1923–2004) was born to parents of Russian Jewish heritage in New York City. As a boy, he learned photography, joining the YMHA Camera Club at the age of twelve; later, he took up poetry, winning a citywide award for high school students during his senior year at DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx.

richard-avedon-1923-2004Avedon joined the armed forces in 1942 during World War II, serving as Photographer’s Mate Second Class in the Merchant Marine. Making identification portraits of the crewmen with his Rolleiflex twin lens camera—a gift from his father—Avedon advanced his technical knowledge of the medium and began to develop a dynamic style. After two years of service he left the Merchant Marine to work as a photographer, making fashion images and studying with art director Alexey Brodovitch at the Design Laboratory of the New School for Social Research.

In 1945, Avedon set up his own studio and worked as a freelance photographer for various magazines. He quickly became the preeminent photographer used by Harper’s Bazaar. There, under the tutelage of Brodovitch, his rise to the top of the profession was meteoric. Avedon developed an original approach to making fashion photographs. He showed the models full of expression: smiling, laughing, and often posed in action. Inspired by Hungarian photojournalist and fashion photographer Martin Munkácsi, Avedon photographed models and fashions on the streets, in nightclubs and circus arenas, and in other locations then uncommon.

From the beginning, Avedon made portraits for editorial publication as well: in the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, in Theater Arts, and in Life and Look magazines. From the outset, he was fascinated by photography’s capacity for suggesting the personality and evoking the life of his subjects. Only rarely did he idealize people; instead, he presented the face as a kind of landscape, with total clarity. He registered poses, attitudes, hairstyles, clothing and accessories as vital, even revelatory elements of the personal image. “My photographs don’t go below the surface. I have great faith in surfaces. A good one is full of clues.”

“All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.”
–Richard Avedon

Continue reading Remembering Richard Avedon

Alfred Hitchcock

The acknowledged master of the thriller genre he virtually invented, director Alfred Hitchcock was also a brilliant technician who deftly blended sex, suspense and humor while creating a number of motifs and devices – most famously the MacGuffin – to advance his intricate plots. Hitchcock went through four distinct periods throughout his career, starting with his silent period where he made “The Lodger” (1926) and a handful of others before entering the sound era and properly beginning his so-called British period. During the 1930s, he honed his master of suspense chops with a number of acclaimed espionage films like “The 39 Steps” (1935), “The Secret Agent” (1936) and “Sabotage” (1936). He attracted the attention of Hollywood with “The Lady Vanishes” (1938) and embarked on the third phase of his career, starting with “Rebecca” (1940), “Foreign Correspondent” (1940), “Suspicion” (1941) and “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943). After “Spellbound” (1945), Hitchcock directed “Notorious” (1946), his most emotionally mature film at the time. Fond of ordinary men accused of crimes they did not commit and icy blondes in despair, Hitchcock entered the most artistically fruitful part of his career, directing “Strangers on a Train” (1951), “To Catch a Thief” (1955) and “The Wrong Man” (1956) alongside masterpieces like “Rear Window” (1954), “Vertigo” (1958), “North by Northwest” (1959) and “Psycho” (1960). Though he faltered after “The Birds” (1963), Hitchcock remained a highly influential director whose life and career retained a high level of interest decades after his death.

Born on Aug. 13, 1899 in Leytonstone, England, Hitchcock was raised one of three children by his father, William, a poultry dealer and fruit importer, and his mother, Emma. Hitchcock had a rather lonely childhood due in part to his obesity, which left him sheltered and isolated. His parents had unusual methods of discipline; his father sent him to the local jail with instructions for the police to lock him in a cell for 10 minutes for misbehaving, and his mother often forced him to stand at the foot of her bad for hours after explaining to her his indiscretions. Both experiences found their way thematically into Hitchcock’s later work, particularly the idea of a wrongfully accused man being punished. When he was 14 years old, Hitchcock’s father died, which was also the same time that he left St. Ignatius College in London to study engineering at the School of Engineering and Navigation. Following his graduation, Hitchcock became a draftsman and designer for W.T. Henley’s Telegraph Works Company. It was there that he first delved into creative endeavors when he began publishing short stories like “Gas” (1919) and “The History of Pea Eating” (1920) for the Henley Telegraph, the company’s in-house magazine.

Hitchcock began his filmmaking career in 1920 when he began working as a title card illustrator on silent films for Paramount Picture’s Famous Players-Lasky studio in London. While there, he learned scripting, editing and art direction, and soon rose to become head of the title department. In 1922, he was made an assistant director when Famous Players was taken over by Michael Balcon’s production company and was given his first chance at directing the short film, “No. 13/Mrs. Peabody” (1922), which was left unfinished. After making his first film as assistant director, art director and sole writer on “Woman to Woman” (1923), Hitchcock directed his first feature, “The Pleasure Garden” (1925), a tale of adultery and murder that he made on an extremely limited budget and showed flashes of his future brilliance. He next directed the rather silly comedy, “The Mountain Eagle/Fear o’ God” (1925), which inaccurately portrayed life in Kentucky where the film was set, but nonetheless became a hit and allowed Hitchcock to choose his next picture.

That turned out to be “The Lodger” (1926), Hitchcock’s breakthrough film and one that became the template of the classic Hitchcock-esque plot: an innocent protagonist falsely accused of a crime who becomes involved in a web of intrigue. The protagonist in this case was Jonathon Drew (Ivor Novello), a boarding house lodger who finds himself accused of being Jack the Ripper and goes on the run to prove his innocence. He directed a number of sub-part films for the remainder of his silent period; “Downhill” (1927), “Easy Virtue” (1927) and “Champagne” (1928) were all forgettable entries in the Hitchcock canon. Hitchcock displayed early technical virtuosity with his creation of subjective sound for “Blackmail” (1929), his first talkie. In this story of a woman (Joan Barry) who stabs an artist to death when he tries to seduce her, Hitchcock emphasized the young woman’s anxiety by gradually distorting all but one word – “knife” – of a neighbor’s dialogue the morning after the killing. He further expounded on the themes of sex and violence in “Murder” (1930), which featured the groundbreaking technique of recording a character’s thoughts onto the soundtrack.















Kodachrome – A History and Tribute

It wasn’t easy being green. Or yellow or red or blue, for that matter. While color photography had been around in one form or another since the 1860s, until the Eastman Kodak Company came out with its Kodachrome film in 1935, those wishing to capture a color image had to deal with heavy glass plates, tripods, long exposures and an exacting development procedure, all of which resulted in less than satisfactory pictures — dull, tinted images that were far from true to life. So while Kodak’s discontinuation of the iconic color film will affect only the most devoted photo buffs — sales of Kodachrome account for less than 1% of the company’s revenue — the June 22 announcement breaks one of the largest remaining ties to the era of pre-digital photography. It also ends a legacy that includes some of the most enduring images of 20th century America.

(See photos by Richard Avedon.)
The Kodachrome process — in which three emulsions, each sensitive to a primary color, are coated on a single film base — was the brainchild of Leopold Godowsky Jr. and Leopold Mannes, two musicians turned scientists who worked at Kodak’s research facility in Rochester, N.Y. Disappointed by the poor quality of a “color” movie they saw in 1916, the two Leopolds spent years perfecting their technique, which Kodak first utilized in 1935 in 16-mm movie film. The next year, they tried out the process on film for still cameras, although the procedure was not for the hobbyist: the earliest 35-mm Kodachrome went for $3.50 a roll, or about $54 in today’s dollars.

While all color films have dyes printed directly onto the film stock, Kodachrome’s dye isn’t added until the development process. “The film itself is basically black and white,” says Grant Steinle, vice president of operations at Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kans., the only photo-processing center still equipped to develop Kodachrome film. Steinle says that although all dyes will fade over time, if Kodachrome is stored properly it can be good for up to 100 years. The film’s archival abilities, coupled with its comparative ease of use, made it the dominant film for both professionals and amateurs for most of the 20th century. Kodachrome captured a color version of the Hindenburg’s fireball explosion in 1936. It accompanied Edmund Hillary to the top of Mount Everest in 1953. Abraham Zapruder was filming with 8-mm Kodachrome in Dallas when he accidentally captured President Kennedy’s assassination. National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry used it to capture the haunting green-gray eyes of an Afghan refugee girl in 1985 in what is still the magazine’s most enduring cover image.

For 20 years, anyone wishing to develop Kodachrome film had to send it to a Kodak laboratory, which controlled all processing. In 1954, the Department of Justice declared Kodachrome-processing a monopoly, and the company agreed to allow other finishing plants to develop the film; the price of a roll of film — which previously had the processing cost added into it — fell roughly 43%.

Kodachrome’s popularity peaked in the 1960s and ’70s, when Americans’ urge to catalog every single holiday, family vacation and birthday celebration hit its stride. Kodachrome II, a faster, more versatile version of the film, came out in 1961, making it even more appealing to the point-and-shoot generation. Super 8, a low-speed fine-grain Kodachrome movie film, was released in 1965 — and was used to film seemingly every wedding, beach holiday and backyard barbecue for the next decade. (Aficionados can check out the opening credits of the ’80s coming-of-age drama The Wonder Years for a quick hit of nostalgia.) When Paul Simon sang, “Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away” in 1973, Kodak was still expanding its Kodachrome line, and it was hard to believe that it would ever disappear. But by the mid-1980s, video camcorders and more easily processed color film from companies like Fuji and Polaroid encroached on Kodachrome’s market share, and the film fell into disfavor. Compared to the newer technology, Kodachrome was a pain to develop. It required a large processing machine and several different chemicals and over a dozen processing steps. The film would never, ever be able to make the “one-hour photo” deadline that customers increasingly came to expect. Finally in the early 2000s came the digital-photography revolution; digital sales today account for more than 70% of Kodak’s revenue.

Kodak quit the film-processing business in 1988 and slowly began to disengage from film-manufacturing. Super 8 went by the wayside in 2007. By 2008 Kodak was producing only one Kodachrome film run — a mile-long sheet cut into 20,000 rolls — a year, and the number of centers able to process it had declined precipitously. Today, Steinle’s Kansas store processes all of Kodak’s Kodachrome film — if you drop a roll off at your local Wal-Mart, it will be developed at Dwayne’s Photo — and though it is the only center left in the world, the company processes only a few hundred rolls a day.

Kodachrome 64 slide film, discontinued on June 22, was the last type of true Kodachrome available — although the company expects existing stocks to last well into the fall. Kodak plans to donate the last remaining rolls of Kodachrome film to the George Eastman House’s photography museum. One of them will be symbolically shot by McCurry — although the famed photographer gave up the format long ago. In fact, McCurry’s photographic career perfectly traces the rise and fall of Kodak film. He shot his iconic Afghan-girl portrait on Kodachrome and returned 17 years later to photograph the same woman with Kodak’s easier-to-develop Ektachrome. Now, he relies on digital.

Read more:,8599,1906503,00.html#ixzz2IRUPYIvR



Photo copyright: DJ Florek

Kodachrome_Last_roll Goodbye-Kodachrome-1200x842 FTT9_149




Ellen von Unwerth

Todays feature is Ellen von Unwerth, I grew up looking at her work and it moved me. She was daring and took risks and it paid off. I would definitely put her down as someone that influenced my own work. (+ continues to do so)

From the moment Ellen von Unwerth picked up a camera in the mid-1980s, she has held the fashion world captive with a style that is at once elegant, evocative, and erotic. A former model, she began by snapping photos of her model friends, but soon after, von Unwerth emerged as a rising fashion star, shooting for Vogue and, by 1989, the edgy campaigns for Guess that made Claudia Schiffer a household name – an ad campaign that von Unwerth continues photographing to this day. Her riotous and seductive images have filled four books (one forthcoming) and appeared inside and on the covers of almost two decades’ worth of fashion and celebrity magazines, including Harper’s Bazaar, Interview, I-D and V. The German – born mother of one will no doubt go down in fashion history as a pioneering female photographer, but it is her almost preternatural sense of what is sexy that separates her from all the rest.

Ellen von Unwerth’s work offers a distinctly sexual and playful version of fashion and beauty photography. In addition to her career as fashion photographer, film-maker, and video director, her work has been collected in numerous books and two photo-novellas. Von Unwerth’s first book, Snaps, was published in 1994 followed by Wicked (1998), and Couples (1999). Her photo-novella Revenge was published in 2003 accompanied by exhibitions in New York, Paris, Amsterdam, and Hamburg. Her photographs have been widely exhibited internationally including in Archaeology of Elegence (2001-2), and Fashioning Fiction exhibited at MoMA/Queens in 2004.

After a decade as a fashion model, von Unwerth brought a first-hand knowledge of the kinetic energy of fashion photo shoots to the creation of her own photographs. Her sensual campaigns for Guess in the early 1990s launched von Unwerth’s commercial career, and subsequently she has created campaigns for Baccardi, Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic, Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Diesel, Chanel, Miu Miu, Blumarine as well as a series of publicity advertisements for HBO’s Sex and the City. Von Unwerth has also ventured into directing short films for Azzedine Alaïa and Katherine Hamnett, music videos for artists such as Duran Duran and commercials for Baccardi and Clinique.


Check out her Vimeo channel and her Facebook page

Now the best part, looking at her images:









Ellen von UnwerthEllen von Unwerth











Herb Ritts, In Retrospect

I loved his work from an early age. His black and white work with Cindy Crawford still inspires me today. I wanted to remember him with this post and revisit the photos that inspired me.

About Mr. Ritts:

In the late 1970s, the mostly self-taught, Los Angeles–based photographer Herb Ritts stumbled upon success, after his impromptu images of his longtime friend Richard Gere—taken at a California gas station, on a lark—were widely published and well received.

Herb Ritts began his photographic career in the late 70’s and gained a reputation as a master of art and commercial photography. In addition to producing portraits and editorial fashion for Vogue, Vanity Fair, Interview and Rolling Stone, Ritts also created successful advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein, Chanel, Donna Karan, Gap, Gianfranco Ferré, Gianni Versace, Giorgio Armani, Levi’s, Pirelli, Polo Ralph Lauren, Valentino among others. Since 1988 he directed numerous influential and award winning music videos and commercials. His fine art photography has been the subject of exhibitions worldwide, with works residing in many significant public and private collections.

23-herb-ritts-mark-hanauerIn his life and work, Herb Ritts was drawn to clean lines and strong forms. This graphic simplicity allowed his images to be read and felt instantaneously. They often challenged conventional notions of gender or race. Social history and fantasy were both captured and created by his memorable photographs of noted individuals in film, fashion, music, politics and society.

Ritts died in full mid-career glory, and in the months after his death, his cover shots continued to hit newsstands. We can only guess how aging—and, yes, surviving HIV—would have enriched his vision. “He was a young, robust, energetic, vital, vibrant man who had a lot that he wanted to do. He was excited and thrilled about his future,” says his lover, Erik Hyman. “He wasn’t finished.”

Ritts was committed to HIV/AIDS related causes, and contributed to many charitable organizations, among them amfAR, Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, Project Angel Food, Focus on AIDS, APLA, Best Buddies and Special Olympics . He was also a charter member on the Board of Directors for The Elton John Aids Foundation.

Herb Ritts passed away on December 26th, 2002 but his work lives on.

View more of his work here.

Sources: Lenora Jane Estes for VanityFair