I began to work with black and white photography a few years ago after being given an old enlarger and some paper by my father. I was compelled to set up a darkroom in my cramped Levenshulme bed-sit, and develop photos, badly, with no ventilation, using all the wrong chemicals. The lack of air made me feel ill, and the photos are now all sepia because I failed to wash them properly. At the time I was running a small bicycle shop down the road, taking tatty cycles to pieces everyday and putting them back together. I used photography as an extension of this, being able to work it all through myself from the taking of the photo to the development in the tank, and the final product dripping from a clothes peg above my bath.
I still only use black and white because for most of my adult life I have worked with my hands, either as a cycle courier or in a bike shop. What has risen from this is a practical base for creation. I want to feel the film as a tangible and solid object.
To worry about the theory of art can stop you doing it in the first place, which is why I walked out of art school after only one day in 2003. The institution seemed to be promoting freedom through creativity at the same time as stifling free thought. Photography in black and white is a different view of the world, simply because we only see in colour. In some hands it can be pretentious, but in others it can be honest.
Israel / Palestine
These photos are from when I visited friends in Israel at the end of 2009. I wrote a short account of my two weeks there. Here’s an extract:
The downstairs room was plastered with photo’s of blood, teargas, death, funerals, brutality, maps and prostests. Groups of people, spoke in English, Hebrew and Arabic. We’d come to the centre that organised the weekly demonstration in Bil’in, famous because the land Israel had taken was ruled illegal by an Israeli court two years previously, and still the fence was here, separating Palestinians from their land. I took a photo of a door, kicked in by the Israeli army the week before, in the middle of the night, where people were beaten and threatened.
All images property of © Huw Wahl