At Gossips Club, Soho 1979.

Saturday, 5 November 2011


I discovered today that there is one slightly peculiar similarity between me and one of my photographic heroes -

Garry Winogrand.

We both had deadbolts on the inside of our darkrooms, both for a rather unusual reason.

I would have thought that the only normal reason anyone could have for wanting to lock themselves into their own darkroom would have been to stop someone accidentally opening the door and letting the light in.  Either that or to preserve one's privacy whilst one is working.

In the case of me and Garry this wasn't the case.  It was to prevent the ingress, or in my case the egress, of one particular person.

According to a fascinating blog entry from Norman Bringsjord (link below), a one time student of Garry Winogrand, Garry had a large deadbolt fitted on the inside of his darkroom to prevent his belongings going astray whilst he went through a divorce.  Since he, or someone, would have had to be inside the darkroom at the time, a fact that would be obvious from the outside, one might normally have expected that to be enough.

Maybe Garry Winogrand's ex was a particularly formidable woman?

In my case, having a deadbolt on the inside door of my darkroom was to prevent someone getting out, not in.  That someone was me.

It was the late ‘70s, when I'd just started  to take photography really seriously.  Due to finances though, my whole set-up was still amateur in the extreme.  I only owned one camera body and one lens, and my flash unit was a cheap Sunpak, which I mounted on my camera upside down, with a contraption made from a bent coat hanger and a lot of sellotape.

I set up a small darkroom in the house that my family rented with a couple of our friends.  The only spare space I could utilise was the cupboard under the stairs (which we used as a larder).  If I moved all the food out, I found that there was just enough room for me to stand between the inside of the door and the larder’s bottom shelf.  But only just.  I found that (and this is no exaggeration) if I breathed out too heavily or leant back only slightly, the door would ping open and I’d fog everything.  I solved this problem by fitting a deadbolt on the inside of the door and locking myself in.

It wasn’t a particularly pretty arrangement but it worked and I kept that set up for several years.  My first three one man shows were all printed in the darkroom/larder including 'The Kiss' at the Photographers Gallery in 1982.  The above shot was in that show and also used on the poster.