Picture credit: King Edward VI Aston School

Demand among pupils for traditional methods has swelled since King Edward VI Aston School in Birmingham set up a photographic society and offered photography courses as an ‘enrichment’ option.

Pupils have been able to experience using film alongside digital imaging after the school converted a basement room into its first darkroom three years ago.

David Healey, photography tutor at the school, which educates boys aged 11-18, said: ‘The unique look and feel of film images, as well as the enjoyment of physically creating your own photos, has proved very popular with pupils.

‘High levels of automation in digital photography have, to an extent, deskilled photography, so we are helping boys understand the technology in their phones and other cameras, control it, and use it to achieve the photos they want.

‘We teach boys to, for example, focus manually – a new experience to most because of autofocus. Waiting for your print to appear out of the developer is also a unique experience.’

Matthew, a Year 12 pupil, said: ‘I find that using film photography and getting to grips with the various processes in and around the darkroom not only helps give you creative control over your photography that is much different to digital, but also seems to perfectly complement learning and understanding of all aspects of photography.’

Photography coursework surge

The school runs workshops on close-up photography and is trialling GCSE Art, based entirely on photography.

Last year, 48 pupils learnt to process and print their own film as part of the photography enrichment courses.

Students are increasingly using both and film and digital photography in their GCSE and A-level coursework, according to Healey.

However, higher demand has meant that the existing darkroom, which has a maximum occupancy of eight, was too small – forcing the school to open a second one.

The new darkroom is designed to cater for up to 16 pupils but is not yet kitted out, so the school has launched an appeal for unwanted 35mm enlargers suitable for b&w printing.

‘Offers of other working photo equipment and materials are welcome,’ adds the school which is also after studio flash and a portable background system so it can teach lighting and portraiture techniques.

  • Anyone who can make a donation is urged to contact David Healey at d.healey@keaston.bham.sch.uk or Mrs M Simcox at m.simcox@keaston.bham.sch.uk