What role has the photographic darkroom played in the histories of photography and visual culture? How has this space, at times known as the camera obscura, developing room, laboratory, operating room, operating box, darkened chamber, photographic tent, dark tent, and developing tent, shaped ways of living and knowing?
Historical accounts of the wet darkroom are sparse, and critical discussions largely limited to this space as the site of photographic manipulation. Yet, the darkroom is not a neutral container for photographic production, but a space with its own materiality, rhythm, and choreography that has been central to experiences of, for example, scientific experimentation, research, learning, commerce, colonial encounters, political and cultural agency, sociability, and individual and artistic expression.
This hybrid two-day event initiates a critical conversation about the largely overlooked space of the darkroom, and outlines new ways to research, theorise, and interpret the roles that it has played in our modern world. In the Photographic Darkroom will seek to do so by shifting the focus from the visual product (e.g., negatives and prints) to the setting itself within which these objects were produced, positing that the material, socio-cultural, and corporeal dimensions of the darkroom had an influence on how people conceptualised and, consequently, understood photography. This will enable us to rethink the role of photography in the development of modern visual culture, and its wider historical relations, from fresh viewpoints.
To this end, we invite papers for 15 minute presentations from academics, practitioners, and museums and archives professionals at all career stages working in research areas such as photographic history, visual culture, media and communications studies, social, cultural and media history, cultural studies, history of art, archives and records management, and any other related fields of research.
The event will take place on Thursday 08 and Friday 09 June 2023.
Proposals may explore, but are not limited to:
- Commercial photographic laboratories
- Bodily and sensory experiences in the darkroom
- Darkroom diseases
- Darkroom networks and related communities of practice
- Darkroom practices vis-à-vis visual epistemologies
- The darkroom technician
- The darkroom in visual and popular culture
- Global histories of the darkroom (from any historical period)
- Historic darkrooms
- The material culture of the darkroom
- Performative and tacit forms of knowledge in the darkroom
- Portable darkrooms
- Power relations in the darkroom
- The relationship between the darkroom and the natural environment
- The relationship between the space of the darkroom and its place within urban and not-urban contexts
- Researching the darkroom in archives and special collections
- Your full name
- Email address
- Institutional affiliation (when applicable)
- Paper title
- Proposal of no longer than 300 words for presentations of 15 minutes
- Indication of whether you would be presenting in person or online
- Short biographical note (100-140 words)
Importantly: Selected speakers will be invited to contribute extended versions of their papers to a journal special issue or edited volume on the same theme. Please could all the applicants consider their paper proposals for research not yet published elsewhere as expressions of interest to contribute to the edited publication as well, or specify in the document itself if their paper proposal is based on research that has already been published elsewhere and/or if they would not want to be considered for the edited publication.