Any artist’s studio is a place of creativity, inspiration, reflection and endeavour. The photographer Bettina von Zwehl (www.bettinavonzwehl.com) has drawn parallels between the artist’s studio and sacred space, a link which I find has strong & potentially rich resonances. It’s not just a place where we undertake certain artistic processes, it is also a place of being, of encounter, of revelation. That is especially the case with the darkroom, a space that, with its dimmed reddened safelight interior, creates an atmosphere of mystery and stillness. No doubt the gentle sound of running water from the print-washing adds to this feeling!  Darkroom creativity is a constant, from selection of a negative, to cropping an image, choosing levels of contast and tonality in the print, dodging and burning in, creating highlights, toning, trying different developers and papers, perhaps experimenting with liquid light. And of course I haven’t mentioned the rich tradition of cameraless photography, the contact print, photogram, luminogram and chemogram. Yes, some of this creativity could be achieved in front of a computer screen. But part of the creative process must involve – to my mind at least – the use of our hands moulding and shaping the raw materials, engaged in the physicality of making an object. The environmentalist and once Jain monk Satish Kumar (http://www.resurgence.org/satish-kumar) has noted how in the West we spend most of our time using our hands and fingers on computer key pads and are losing touch with the essence of creativity, which is such an important part of what makes us human. Perhaps in a rationalistic post-modernist culture, we have greater reason to rediscover the sacred space of the artist studio.

Advertisements