A Year In Development exhibition: Not all photographers are giving in to the lure of digital

The world has switched to digital cameras, right? Not so fast, says one exhibition, now in its third year, which celebrates the breathtaking work of a select band of photographers who continue to prefer the dark magic of the hand-printed photograph

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The Independent Culture

In a world that celebrates speed, digital has long replaced analogue as the photographer's preferred method. But the story of film's demise might have been relayed prematurely. Some aficionados would even claim it is alive, well, and being put to good use.

While fewer people might be using it, and only a smattering of labs specialise in its production, there is still a community that is dedicated to the art of film.

Labyrinth Photographic Printers is one of a small number of London-based experts. This month it is putting on its third annual exhibition, A Year In Development, presenting more than 70 of its clients' hand-printed images that have been shot on film and developed at the lab over the past 12 months.

"People were saying that film was disappearing from the industry, but that's far from the truth," says Clare Hewitt, the curator of the exhibition. "Photographers are still choosing to shoot on film and the lab has seen a real surge in users; if anything, it's increasing."

Part of the reason it still flourishes is the creativity it offers. "The way the negative is processed and how it is printed allows the photographer to experiment," explains Hewitt. "I'm not saying you can't achieve a beautiful image with digital, because of course you can. But hand-printing is very much about the relationship between the client and the printer, and getting the most out of it that you can."


It is not just the time spent in the darkroom that keeps film fanatics hooked; it's the shooting process, too. "If you're using a medium- format film, you might only have 12 shots," notes Hewitt. "It makes you react in a different way; you have to make them count. Then [unlike digital], you have the anticipation of not knowing what you've captured. It's exciting."

Clients being showcased range from recent photography graduates to Spencer Murphy, the winner of the 2013 Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize; and the shots vary from fashion campaigns for Calvin Klein to stark photojournalism from conflict areas. The idea is simply to celebrate and support film within the industry.

Some of the most striking images are from photographers recently returned from Ukraine: Anastasia Taylor-Lind shot a number of portraits in Kiev's Maidan Square and brought in her films to develop at Labyrinth. "I think it's kind of incredible that that type of photography is still being shot on film," says Hewitt. "You could still smell the smoke from the barricades on the film. You wouldn't get that with digital, would you?"

A Year In Development is at Four Corners, London E2, until 2 May (labyrinthphotographic.co.uk)