Peter Langman on portraits and the darkroom.
Peter Langman’s stunning portraits are developed and printed in a beautiful darkroom in what he describes as a “posh shed” in his garden.
By Christopher Osborne.
Chelmsford-based photographer Peter Langman has built a beautiful darkroom in what he describes as a “posh shed” in his garden. I was interested to know how this came about and what motivated Peter.
“I developed my first roll of film at college when I was twenty years old”, explains Peter. “That’s now thirty years ago”. For a while, I was shooting weddings. I became disillusioned with the impact of the digital process on the wedding industry. The degree of editing started to annoy me. One bride asked me if I could edit away the tattoos on her arms. I told her no. And there are now an increasing number of photographers with no skill making good money”.
Peter Langman – self portrait in his darkroom.
“I bought a Konica T4 on eBay in 2018 for just GBP 20.00. I loaded it up with Ilford HP5 and was hooked. My partner bought me a course on how to process film in London. I was hooked. When covid struck I sold my digital equipment and built a darkroom with the proceeds”.
“These days, my camera of choice is a Mamiya C330. I love TLRs. I also use a Yashica Mat for day-to-day use. And if I am shooting on 35mm, then I use an Olympus OM1 or OM2”.
“There is a mixture of things that makes you want to shoot film. Firstly, it demands maximum focus. To be good at it you have to be technically proficient in the whole process. And once you get into the darkroom and shut the door then it is a mindful experience. You are in control of your own space and time. It offers the opportunity to be creative. The results are entirely in your own hands”.
“I see in Black & White. I shoot in Black & White. I have no interest in colour. I shoot mostly portraits, and I like high contrast. I usually use one light (a Godox AD600 or AD200), Delta 100 is my go-to film although sometimes I use Delta 400 if I want a bit more grain. I use 510 Pyro developer for the tones”.
“My darkroom is 3 metres long x 2.5 metres wide”. I asked Peter to take us on a virtual tour. “There is an Olympus sign near the door. My neighbour used to work for Jessops. He found it when he was tidying out his garden shed, and asked me if I want it. I have replaced the lights in the sign with LEDs. I use red strip LEDs for the safelights. And I have a remote-controlled LED light in the room for the white light. There are shelves for my camera collection, and a few books. I started with a black & white enlarger with Ilford multigrade filters, however, I have now upgraded to a Meopta Six colour enlarger. I have hot and cold water that comes into the darkroom through hoses from the house”. During the week that Peter and I are talking, Britain is gripped by a particularly cold spell of weather. “At the moment, the hoses are completely frozen”.
“My favourite paper is Ilford Multigrade RC Deluxe, although I do like to experiment with expired papers. I like making postcard-sized prints to send to friends. And I am building up a collection of 5×7 inch photographs of family that are being placed in albums. In the future, these albums will come out at family get-togethers”.
“Printing in the darkroom has made me think much more deeply about what I am trying to achieve with my images. As a result, it has completely changed how I want my photography to be seen. The darkroom process controls the emotion in the print. A darkroom print has a depth that does not exist in digital prints. And my images are quite dark”.
“I am now getting really good results. I am selling prints and I am selling portraits. I have a grey wall in my kitchen and I take most of the portraits in there. I do not market myself. I do not want to do it as a business at this stage. I want to keep enjoying my photography. I feel that turning it into a business might add additional pressure that I do not need. And there is the administrative side of insurance and tax to think about too. I am quite happy for people to come to me”.
“I want the analogue world to grow. People’s desire to have a tangible experience has caused vinyl records to take off again. I want the little businesses that make things for film photography to succeed. I am worried about film prices. I do not want to see this turn into one of those things that only wealthy people can afford to do”.
Inside Peter Langman’s darkroom.
Postscript. Peter and I spoke about the his plans for 2023. He has several projects planned for the forthcoming year. These have a strong social and mental health narrative. We hope to catch up with Peter in the future and report on his progress.
Images © Peter Langham 2022.
You might also be interested in this previous SilvergrainClassics article on British photographer Eliza Stephens. https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/2022/11/eliza-stephens-on-photography-and-the-darkroom/