Humanities and Arts

DARKROOM NETWORKS: Mundane subversiveness for photographic autonomy, 1880s-1900s

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This article investigates the role of the darkroom in the experiences of British amateur photographers who, between the 1880s and 1900s, chose to process their negatives themselves while travelling. It focuses, in particular, on the reasons underpinning the development of a network of facilities for changing and developing plates available to tourists, and on how photographers’ engagement with this infrastructure expanded its function in ways that implicitly challenged dominant approaches to both photography and travel. It does so by examining the darkroom, first, as an alternative tourist bureau that put travelling photographers in contact with local knowledge, and second, as the site of a material culture that empowered photographers. These experiences demonstrate that close to the heart of these practitioners was not simply photographic mobility but, most importantly, photographic autonomy.