The Magic of Silver Alchemy…

I first experienced the transformative power of film photography when I was fifteen. I still remember the moment, standing at the edge of a plastic tray in dim red light watching a blank piece of paper like it was some secret scroll at the bottom of an infinite ocean.

For what felt like an age nothing happened. The sheet of paper that I had just exposed with a few seconds of light through an enlarger stubbornly refused to give up its secrets.

And then with a shuffle of sub atomic energies a feathery shadow edged into the centre of the paper, a ghosting of an image still far beyond recognition. All you could really tell was that something was about to happen.

Too impatient to wait I grabbed the corner of the tray between my finger and thumb and gently lifted, sending a clear chemical wash scooshing over the papers surface. It rebound off the far side and rippled back up to me along with my first hand-made image.

Blacks whites and greys rose now onto my paper like wisps of smoke, forming shapes and patterns for my brain to make sense of. Gradually the black and white image that I had taken came back to me like a distant memory, or the fragment of a dream.

I was transfixed and felt like I had been initiated into a secret world where the seemingly impossible becomes possible and  I could make my own sense of the world around me. This moment of apparition is just as exciting to me now, working silver print images into the light with dev, stop, fix and a little bit of alchemy.




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