With compact digital cameras being more affordable and accessible than ever before it is no wonder there are so many self-proclaimed ‘photographers’ running around these days. Spending a few minutes reading through the manual to find out how to switch the thing on and flip it onto program mode does not make a photographer. Remember those “play by numbers” music keyboards we used to play when we were kids? We were shown which key to press and then, as if by magic, the tune played. We did not need to know how to read music or hear the beat but we were playing a tune. The problem is that playing a tune doesn’t make you a musician. Similarly, photography is an Art form and as such, requires a deep understanding of the fundamentals and years or practice before the artist can call themselves a master of their craft.

I recently spent some time hanging out with the students of the Cape Town School of Photography and was hugely impressed by not only the talent of the students but also the fact that a large portion of the two year course is devoted to the understanding of the fundamentals of photography in the good old way – in the dark room.

First year students spend the first term doing darkroom work including shadowgrams, pinhole and 35mm film. In the second year, students explore medium format and varied techniques such as advanced darkroom processing and alternative processes like van dyke browns, cyanotypes and lith prints. All of the students have an element of film photography in their portfolios, some even choosing this medium exclusively for their work.

It is encouraging and exciting to see how, after being introduced to the magical world of film, the young blood at CTSP have embraced it.

Check out some of their work below or pop into their end of year exhibition on the 6th of December 2012 for a glass of wine.


Written by Mark Kalkwarf