A few weeks ago, I moved to a new place and as always, I took a walk around the block to see who my new neighbors would be. My interest was already piqued, so each new cafe and shop that I passed became a beacon of excitement as I rambled through. And without realizing it, I landed in front of a tiny gallery whose facade was completely made of glass. Before I noticed its name, I saw inside something that made my heart beat a little faster… gelatin silver photography.
For a photographer whose focus has been mainly black and white, large format film for over seven years, this is a treat to see. Not many people use the process anymore because of the digital revolution. But it is my understanding that many photographers still hold it dear to their practice, because it was through that process that they learned the art (and craft) to begin with. At my college in the United States, gelatin silver process is still taught as the foundation of photography, before the digital curriculum even begins. So it is very important to me and as you can imagine, I was thrilled at the discovery of this place.
I found out that it is called Rough Print Gallery, located at 14 Bradbury Street in Dalston, London. They mainly show darkroom work there, and have a new opening every Thursday evening. As it happened, it was Thursday, so I slipped inside to see the show.
All of the prints on the walls were tiny, maybe 5×7 inches each. Everyone was taking turns and crowding each other to get an intimate one-on-one appointment with each image. This was a lovely experience because even though I had to wait and allow others to take their time, once I arrived at the photograph, I entered into another world. The photographer is Mick Williamson, who I gather is the Head of Photography at The Cass (London Metropolitan University), and who has been photographing for over 30 years. His project, entitled Photo-Diaries is soft and beautiful. Each image is a black and white, brief meditation in the home and in nature; moments that could easily be passed by. They floated me into a state of reverie. When I read the small leaflet included in the show, it was noted that “Photographers often pride themselves on their ability to capture the decisive moment. The work of Mick Williamson however purposefully shuns the key moment, preferring instead to focus on what might be constructed as the missed opportunity.”
Indeed, I felt as though these moments had previously escaped me, and I was being reintroduced to them through Williamson’s work. They felt like real ruminations, not on anything particularly complex, but on something like the mystery of time passing or light shifting. Many photographs resembled each other and clearly flowed as a series. Each had a certain off-kilter moment of capture, feeling less like a completed thought or sentence, and more like a fragment. This forced me to think twice – look again – and look deeper, and in doing so connect in a greater way with each instance. Plus, they had those luscious grey tones only achieved through gelatin silver printing, which automatically won me over.
All in all, it was a great introduction to Williamson’s photography, and to Rough Print Gallery. I recommend paying a visit some Thursday evening to this tiny house of worship in Dalston. And though his website is currently under construction, there is a limited selection of Williamson’s work available for viewing here and here.