We’ve all had that time when we gathered around photo albums flicking through our old family photos and thought to ourselves of how charming and aesthetically pleasing they look even when most of them are random shots or embarrassing portraits at some beach-most probably in Alexandria- or a day trip to the zoo, and sure there will be a picture of a naked baby in there. The imperfect edges of the pictures create a sense of nostalgia and a deeper sense in which people these days try to imitate but can hardly get. So, we had a chat with the guy who said “Why imitate when you can simply just shoot analog?” Mohamed Abdel Wahab, the Founder of The Darkroom Cairo.
So, Mohamed, tell us how did you dig in analog photography?
Well, I used to shoot with analog cameras since forever as my father had his own photography studio, so practically I was raised in a studio). Finding the digital cameras more convenient, I shifted to DSLRs or as we call digital cameras, that by the way I still use till this day and began my career as a photographer but in 2010 I was drawn to my analog camera even more and started using it again just to fulfill my love for photography.
What made you start “The Darkroom Cairo” hub?
Photography studios were providing the service of developing film rolls back in time, but over the years it became something rare till it became nonexistent. This motivated me to take courses and bring my own supplies like the chemicals used to develop the films and gave me the idea of offering this service to other people, so we started The Darkroom Cairo about three years ago in March 2017.
When you started “The Darkroom Cairo” did you think it’ll be the way it is today and were you planning for it to be your career?
To be honest, I started this place as a side job, and I didn’t think that it’ll take all my time to the point that it became my main job now. I was surprised by how much it progressed over time as we started off with 100 analog photographers and now because we provided the scanning and developing film rolls services, they’re up to 5000 photographers, and we develop at least 70 film roll per week. I’m happy and content with what we achieved so far in The Darkroom Cairo as it helped people who gave up on analog photography to get back to do what they love and inspired others to start shooting analog, and that’s why we always aspire to upgrade the services we offer.
What made you choose analog photography over digital photography?
Well, I didn’t and I don’t really believe in the whole analog versus digital photography thing because there’s no comparison between both of them. Film cameras can disarm people while, for others, they can be the starting point for some great photographs, but you as a receiver wouldn’t care about any of this you would just want to see a good picture. So, that’s up to the photographer to decide the way to capture it. I, personally, prefer analog cameras because you wouldn’t always be in that type of rush trying to get the latest camera type because all the analog cameras are just old. Another reason is that the films are archival and as long as you have the negative you’re good while in the case of the digital, one click and years-long of pictures are gone in a minute. Lastly, each film roll has a different outcome you can surely attain that by digital manipulation, but why imitate when you can simply just shoot analog?
So, is it true that analog photography teaches you more about photography?
Yes, of course. You only have 36 pictures per film roll which means only 36 trials, and you wouldn’t want to waste them nor waste the money that you spent on the film and the scanning process,so it makes you more careful. The latest portraits that we posted on The Darkroom Cairo page on Instagram were from our large format demo session and was taken by a large format camera which allows you to shoot only 12 pictures, and the scanning process is very complicated and pricey, so you’ll defiantly want to be so sure of every shot.
What are the misconceptions that people have about analog photography?
The most common misconception about analog photography is that people think that pictures will come out looking all artsy by itself and that the camera will do the magic. Actually, they need to understand that light, lens, and how you shoot along with many other elements affect the film’s outcome. I always like to say that an analog camera is like a car unless you know how to operate it, it won’t move.
Do you have any concerns regarding companies that manufacture film rolls?
Over the years industrial giants that had churned out rolls of film in their hundreds of millions had to either close their doors or limit the types of films they produce but with the analog photography hopping on the trend again, big companies like Fujifilm, Kodak, Polaroid, and Film Ferrania made new types of films or restored the production of some others.
Where do you see analog photography in the next 10 years?
It won’t die out as some may claim. There’s a growing wave of photography enthusiasts who remain committed to the old technology, people who hop on the trend and want to try something new, and others who take this as their career or see it from the business side as they’re not so many in Egypt but still, they’re growing. When it comes to analog cameras, people all over the world are using used cameras because they are no longer being produced, some people took this thing personally and are trying to invent their own new analog camera by using 3D printing, and I think that’s the future for the analog cameras.
The Darkroom Cairo services are not only limited to scanning and printing film rolls, but they also help beginners to know their way around their new cameras and they suggest where to go if they’re facing any technical issue. Make sure to check out The Darkroom Cairo page on Facebook to be updated with their photo walks, events like Analog Gear Day, and workshops on film developing and printing, Photogram workshop, Cyanotype, etc.
Read more: Co-Creator of Visit Egypt, Ahmed Wahba, and Our Chat About Photography, Tourism, and Future Plans!
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A strong upper Egyptian woman! By day, Gilan uses her voice and platform to educate, advocate, and enhance the voices of minorities, and by night, she paints her face with bright colors and glitter!