Coping with Children & COVID — an analogue approach


By Andy Walmsley,

Silvergrain Classics – the analogue photography magazine.

Andy Walmsley (aka phlogger) shares his experiences on coping with children and Covid.

Alice with her prints

It’s funny, I found this article difficult to start despite the many I have created. I think the reason was excitement at working with the people at Silvergrain Classics magazine – I was a bit nervous, having put them on a pedestal. But when conversing with the team, I found we were all on the same wavelength, and I approached them with the idea of writing about how I have coped with Covid.

During the past few months there have been ups and downs, initially being too busy at work whilst struggling to cope with the pressures of lockdown.  At that point my mind could not cope with photography, never mind podcasting or blogging.  But within weeks life started settling down and eventually I started my gradual climb back to normality.

One of the effects of this damn virus has been spending a lot of time with my children, aged 8 and 9.  Since I’m working from home, I get more quality time with them and no commuting!    My eldest daughter has sometimes taken an interest in my photography, and during my first darkroom adventures in 2018 we did a few photograms together.

Emily, my eldest and I discussed coming into the mystical red room with me, but I reminded her that it smells and it is also dark and we need to be careful near the chemicals.  Within minutes she was controlling the timer, switching off the enlarger, and placing the paper in the easel each time.  It wasn’t long before she asked questions on each tray, too, and it didn’t take her long to remember dev, stop, and fix.

The first session was approximately 2 hours and she loved it so much she asked me at lunch time if we were going in after work!  To give her a bit of responsibility, I asked her to set up the room (excluding chemicals) and she did it wonderfully.  It was great to see her enthusiasm plugging in the electric extension, filling up my buckets with water (no water in the darkroom) and getting the trays out.  It became a regular thing for a few nights, and at the weekend I decided to make a video to prove that she knew her stuff.

An image of Emily


After a couple of sessions, Alice, my younger daughter (aged 8) made a sudden decision to come into the darkroom too!  I cannot tell you how big a deal this was since she is terrified of spiders and the dark (she sleeps with a lamp on and checks for spiders each night).

However, she came in and observed the cobwebs and after closing the door she realised it wasn’t completely black and seemed okay with it. (I have quite a few light leaks, to be fair.)  Within minutes, my eldest started explaining to her about the 3 trays and what everything does.  I always try to let them learn and make their own mistakes, with the obvious exception for safety reasons of never touching the developer.

We did a few prints and even let them agitate trays (wearing gloves) and were pleased with the outcome.

Kiwis, Toothpaste, & Lumen

After seeing an article about lumen prints, I spoke to both of them about trying this during the warm weather.  They were both interested, and we found some old picture frames to use with my 5×7 Ilford paper.

These are the times when you see the creativity of young minds and just let them explore.  The youngest did a few pictures involving various flowers like daisies as a trial. After a few hours we revealed our first few results and several hours later we had accumulated this pile.

They both enjoyed it so much we did more on the next day and experimented with anything we could find in the house.  This included toothpaste, kiwi, jam, food dye (worked great), and pre-fixing too!


Spending more time in the darkroom, I was trying to improve my knowledge base and started looking at printing.  I was looking at “spotting” and thinking about a prior interview I did with artist Jan Schlegel who hand paints his darkroom prints.  My biggest drawback would be my lack of skill in drawing/painting (as you can see from the lumen prints). So, I decided to let my children play with the idea instead. 

I handed them some of the prints (fibre and vc paper) I had made that were not perfect or I didn’t want.  We agreed to use a small amount of paint and just paint over them, initially a small section to add colour but then just to be creative.  My eldest liked the idea of us doing the same picture so I had the scanned image on my mobile beside us to work from.

On the final time my eldest decided to use her imagination (she wants to be an author) and came up with a story for her photo.

All images and video © Andy Walmsley 2020

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