While working as a freelance web developer, Lomographer David Allen, a.k.a. dbloomsday also dedicates half of his time to film photography. We caught up with David and how things are going lately with him – and despite the COVID-19 quarantine in France, he's been fortunate that his work and photography routine weren't affected. How? Why, dear David owns his own darkroom!
David's journey with analogue is filled with friends he gained along the way. Though he had no big budget to plan out for his film photography, David told us many of his equipment were donated to him by members of the film community.
He started using film six years ago as he was about to move from Colorado to France. His friend, Jon gave him a Canon AE-1 for he thought David would enjoy working with film. Another friend named Jon as well worked as an art photographer and also gave David gifts -- another camera, developing tanks and a changing bag. Already having a background with video and photography, David's love affair with analogue was bound to happen. After moving to Toulouse, France, David found a film photography shop and met Franck Gonnaud a.k.a. franckgonnaud, who encouraged him to try multiple exposures and also gifted him a DIY home developing kit. David bought an enlarger. Before, he'd set up a temporary darkroom in the kitchen. Now with a house, he turned the garage into a full-on darkroom. One week after moving in, his friend Simon Riddell visited him to help him set up the darkroom.
David's darkroom composites Pretty Pictures which tackle technology through the irony of the film medium were highly inspired by some conversation he caught on the web – of people at Twitter discussing the possibility of contact printing phones and tablets. The idea was then imprinted on David. David wanted to create a series addressing the issue but in a different, unique way – by obfuscating a pretty picture with a phone, and adding the glass on the screen to create a diffusing effect to drive home the point that 'superficial scrolling is no replacement for reality'.
Another striking motif in his series is children using and looking through the computer screen. According to David, children how to respond to situations accordingly by watching their parents' actions and faces. This is also responsible for shaping children's empathic skills during their formative stages. It's through this idea that he created the photo of a phone over his daughter's face. Being highly motivated by aesthetics of dadaism and surrealism, it's no surprise to us that David manages to create intriguing experiments. He also gets inspired by stimulating conversations – his own discussions with his wife have also greatly influenced his darkroom composites.
"When I first showed my wife my first "Pretty Picture" print, she responded "That's so irritating... I love it!" It was then that knew the series was worth continuing. It was a landscape."
David describes himself as a digital-analogue agnostic but believes that no medium is "pure". The key to good photography? Just be yourself, and do what you want:
"I think darkroom composites are a great example of how film photography is no purer than using Photoshop to make your images. Use the cameras you want, the film or sensors you want. From plastic or glass, sharp or blurry, hi-fi, lo-fi, light-leak-ridden, from one image or 15 negatives sandwiched together in an enlarger – make what you want. I, personally, want to smell the fixer."
For David, having your own darkroom shortens the process and saves more time with the process. It also helps him refine his photographs quicker. As he takes his passion for his darkroom on another level, it is important for him to have the means to create a picture through his desired means and envisioned image. Having a darkroom helps him with that.
"Lomographers tend to gravitate to what is often considered experimental in photography. Having a darkroom shortens the feedback loop, and lets me refine concepts more quickly. Sometimes I'll shoot just one sheet of 4x5 and immediately develop it to check the result. Sometimes I'll make a print the same day. When it comes to darkroom composites it's extremely handy. Some of these prints take more than one day, having to print and dry masks, etc. Having my own darkroom, I can leave everything set up and continue the process days later knowing nothing has been changed!"
He will keep on updating his Pretty Pictures series, as well as plans to continue his Reclamation series on 4x5 slide film. Moreover, David wants to give back to the film community by helping out other budding film lovers the way he was helped as a beginner. He recently started an online marketplace for darkroom printers called 15negatives, a platform where photographers can hopefully be discovered more and sell prints especially in the wake of COVID-19.
As he goes on his journey, David is also starting to make more of his dreams into a reality by getting his own studio that will also serve as a place for artist residencies
"We're looking at buying an old convent here in southwest France. Only one of three floors is currently livable, but the plan is to renovate the other two (Simon is already planning his trip). I not only hope to make a nice darkroom (of course!), but plan on making a big studio and eventually host an artist residency. Hopefully, I can also get some locals interested in darkroom workshops, too!"
As far as his own Lomographic endeavors are at the moment, David's about to shoot with a roll of a Lomography Redscale film, and we are ever more intrigued by what kind of analogue surprise he'll have in store for us next time!