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Living in a Darkroom

Transcontinental Land RoverDoing it tough: Malawi, 1998

 This vehicle was my home, and darkroom, for two and a half years as, together with my then wife, I travelled through Africa, Asia and Europe.

There wasn’t a lot of space on board; standing up, like air-conditioning, was an unattainable dream but there was certainly room for various cameras. They represented the raison d'être of our travels, as well as our only means of income: we supplied a publisher in the UK with images and they supplied us with money to enable us to keep moving forward.

There were adventures aplenty; not all of them happy. We parked up one day in a tourist town in northern Tanzania only to find our vehicle had been broken into when we returned a few hours later. Our Canon cameras, and means of income, were gone. Because this happened in broad daylight with people around, I offered a street kid US$100 if he could get our cameras back. Very long story, very short: we got them back about 6 weeks later which made us, and the street kid, very happy.

The vehicle is an ex-British Army Land Rover. This is the radio body and as such it designed to be blacked out so as to avoid detection at night. Which made it suited to being a darkroom. Well sort of. I tray-developed my large format film in the back but conditions were very far from ideal. Keeping the solutions at an even 20 degrees Celsius in the Tropics was a challenge to be sure, but I managed to somehow make it work.

Doing it even tougher: Roger Fenton, Crimea 1854

In this, I represent the continuation of a tradition started by Roger Fenton during the Crimean war. I hope Roger’s wagon enjoyed a peaceful retirement; our Land Rover didn’t: after two and a half years and about 60 countries, it was shunted off one of the roads leading to Venice in Italy. That roll-cage you see proved its worth that day but we were left homeless and darkroomless.  But at least we still had our cameras.


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