Tokyo Darkroom Style 4

Darkroomer: Jesse Freeman / tumblr / instagram

While previous entries here have shown makeshift setups in homes and apartments, my good friend Jesse has been able to utilize a proper and fully equipped darkroom on a US Military base in Japan. It was here where he made prints for our joint exhibition in Tokyo in October of 2014. Jesse writes that…

Although I do have an enlarger and all the equipment needed (except for a timer) I prefer to print in a proper darkroom. Also, Tokyo apartments and having a dog further hinders the darkroom at home idea. Living in the suburbs of west Tokyo, I am close to a US air base. I am not military but I have connections to get me in. I originally studied ceramics on base as the classes were cheap and the ceramic teacher is Japanese. He had seen my Leica M3 one day and asked if I still shoot film- then informed me the facility had a darkroom that no one used anymore. I asked to see it and was blown away since much of it was untouched and even still had developer from the 50s (apparently it saw a lot of use during the Korean War). So for a fee of $3 dollars a day (chemicals included) I use the darkroom on base.

I was first introduced to darkroom printing three years ago through my friend Thomas Beswick. Since then I’ve gotten better from experience at the base darkroom. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with darkroom work as I had a stubborn belief that my photos are taken and made through the viewfinder, with development being simply confirmation of what I saw. Recently I have gotten into making photograms and these have got me more excited about what I visual ideas I can explore in the darkroom. 

Of late I have been into Japanese woodblock prints- especially the work of Hiroshige- whose landscapes feature white horizons that slowly become denser and thicker toward the top of the frame. Thanks to my darkroom experiences I realized that through dodging and burning I could achieve similar expressive skies. It is the small discoveries like these that make the darkroom special to me. I find it a sensual and rewarding creative process.


Tokyo Darkroom Style 1  

Tokyo Darkroom Style 2  

Tokyo Darkroom Style 3 

More darkrooms online:

Large Format Photography Australia: Show us your darkroom series

- Pippo, a rental darkroom in Tokyo

- Worldwide Local Darkroom locator powered by Harman


The past few days on this site have seen two posts about places for people to gather and interact with one another and photography. Fujifilm’s corporate presence at their new Wonder Photo Shop in Harauku fills a need as does the indie and Artist run space Pippo over in Asakusa.
Sunday evening was another reminder of the importance of sharing art as both a work but also as an experience. In a extremely cool venue filmmakers and friends Jesse Freeman and Thomas Beswick held a screening for their recent collaborative short film:
Winter Mondays, Summer Sundays

The most basic description is that it was divided into two parts, with Freeman’s measured and stop-motion monochromatic take on his daily morning commute through Tokyo with his Leica followed by the vivid richness of deftly edited 8mm film which Beswick shot last summer on a hitchhiking & Skateboarding tour through Japan.
The film was fantastic- you can watch it here. I want to say a few words about how - the experience.

Neither guy had to work together, but they did.

Jesse didn’t have to shoot, develop, and print his own film, but he did.

Thomas didn’t have to lug his 8mm movie camera all across the country and pay for processing and invest so much time to edit his footage, but he did.

They didn’t have to go to a darkroom to print out fifty 5x7 prints from the film as keepsakes for the first fifty guests, but they did.

They could have done all this start to finish digitally just like Samsung and Apple shows hip young people doing in their commercials, but they didn’t.

They could have just dumped their stuff to flickr or youtube, but they didn’t.

One hundred people didn’t have to choose to make their way from all over the city to a single location and sit on the floor or stand to watch a five minute short film, but they did.

Freeman and Beswick created a wonderful piece of art- and were able to make an event out of it for their friends to experience. Communal viewing of a film is a wonderful thing. And while the means by which the soon-to-be-uploaded version will potentially allow more people view the thing per moment than could have fit in the entire building, the fact that last night’s event actually existed is important in ways they internet can commodify.
Even though the screening is done, memories and the catalyst for new friendships and ideas remain. That’s part of it- lights coming back on and seeing the looks on other faces- leaning over and chatting as opposed to commenting and “liking”, that’s really a neat thing to for them to have facilitate. (That’s not to say that Facebook wasn’t instrumental in invitations and online connections. All these things are tools to be used by the desires of people and serve to compliment all aspects. Either one without the other would be lacking. )

I mentioned the photo space Pippo earlier- their statement of purpose has this great little line in it:

Photography is the art of relationships.


Art is the art of relationships.

Get people together- it’s worth it.

+had a Ritche moment a couple of weeks back. Was killing time with my Leica before a shoot for Margret Howell and came across this tree. I can imagine the Japanese workers coming across this branch and making the decision to build around it. In america they would have cut the branch and been done with it, but here they chose to enrich their wall with the tree…dope really<


Film Title: Winter Mondays, Summer Sundays

Tagline: Two directors, Two Journey’s into analogue

Synopsis: Two films: one about a mundane walk to the train station on a winter Monday morning and one about an exciting trip away from the city on a summer Sunday.

Stylization: Half shot in black and white 35mm film in stop motion and half shot in color 8mm the two films take on the characteristics that the trip dictates.

Directed by Jesse Freeman & Thomas Beswick
Music by Martin Ballou

What’s the haps in Sydney this October is this:  

Heavy Collective presents END OF THE ROLE at Kind Of - Gallery in Sydney, Australia.

Out of the 39 participating photographers Jesse Freeman, Alani CruzBjorn Houtman , and I sent in work from Tokyo. Unfortunately none of us are going to be able to make it to the gallery but If you are in Sydney check out the opening reception on October 9th from 6pm- and the show anytime after until the 20th.  Location: 70 Oxford St Darlinghurst.

More info about the event and some sample photos can be seen over at The Opening Hours.

The show should be a good time all the way through and it’s great to see real physical things happening like this with real, physical photographs.  The Heavy Collective facilitates international exposure of photographers via some really interesting projects and interviews.  Also: their site is run on tumblr making it easy to follow them for all kinds of good stuff coming down the line.