The Latent Image

Ask any diehard black and white photographer what he, or she, like most about their craft, and they’ll usually tell you about the excitement of developing and printing their work in an old-fashioned darkroom, the smell of the chemicals and the thrill of seeing the image materialise from a blank piece of paper. Well, I’m not one of those people – I hate the smell of the chemicals, that vinegary stench makes me gag, and I’m far too impatient to be messing around with print after print, trying to get it right.
The thing about mono photography is that it’s all about personal interpretation – give the same negative to ten different printers, and they’ll produce ten distinct and individual final images. It’s the same with scanning a negative – exposure, contrast, tone – they are all just personal taste. This is all assuming there’s a well exposed negative to work from, of course.
Years ago, I shot a lot of black and white film; I used a lab in London called Joe’s Basement, but as professionals switched to digital, it went out of business virtually overnight. I have dipped back into mono, but I’ve never found anywhere that produces images the way I see them. Recently, purely by accident, I discovered The Latent Image, a small lab based in Shrewsbury, England. I shot two rolls of Ilford HP5 with musician, Mae Challis, and sent them as ‘test rolls’ to William Temple – I’m beyond impressed with the results.

Photos made using Pentax 67II and 105mm 2.4 lens.


  1. Dave Gilbert

    Cracking photos, Phil. The one of Mae leaning on the table facing the camera is a corker! I love black and white myself, it’s what I prefer to shoot. Love to develop it myself too, but it’s becoming a pain in the arse. I’m going to send it to a lab from now on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That smell is actually the main thing that makes me periodically think about going back to film photography! Also, the feeling of the boxes of photographic paper. They used to provide an unboxing experience well before the phrase was invented. The whole thing’s so much more of a tactile and olfactory pleasure than simply loading the images into Lightroom. Although admittedly a good bit more fiddly.

    Liked by 2 people

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