Why are Community Darkrooms so Important? An interview with SAIM

By Emma Lloyd

At Analogue Wonderland we want to make film photography fun and accessible for everyone. We believe community darkrooms play a fundamental part in this, and we are also passionate about the magic of the darkroom arts. That's why we have collaborated with the Shoreditch Academy of Image Making for a special film processing workshop!* Taking place on Saturday 26th November. Read on to learn more about community darkrooms, and our upcoming workshop with SAIM. 🎞😁



SAIM got in contact with us a little while ago with the idea to collaborate with us for a darkroom workshop. SAIM was established not too long ago, and with COVID and various other difficult situations that have impacted small businesses over the last few years, it has not been easy for community darkrooms like SAIM. Sadly, over the last few months we have seen several community darkrooms I know and love be forced to close, and sell off their equipment on instagram.

The darkroom arts are truly magical, with endless possibilities, ways to experiment and bring your film photos to life. We truly feel that all film photographers should experience the joy and magic of the darkroom, and get back to the very roots of film photography. Whether that be developing, printing or trying something completely different like playing with liquid emulsion- there is something for everyone.

We felt that by working together, we could support SAIM by bringing some film photography enthusiasts to their door and help our customers learn, discover and enjoy the thrill of the darkroom. All of which echo the Analogue Wonderland ethos of making film photography fun and accessible for everyone.

Why are Community Darkrooms so important? An Interview with SAIM| image of SAIM's darkroom and enlargers 


Community Darkrooms

Community darkrooms are fantastic places to learn new skills, meet new people and make lovely new film photographer friends! They are amazing places, with lots of brilliant facilities and old school kit to nerd out about.

Darkrooms used to be commonplace, believe it or not! Lots of schools would have them, and teaching analogue printing would even be part of the curriculum in some places. But as the digital age took over, many of these facilities were shut down due to lack of funding and a move towards digital technologies.

However, there are still lots of great community darkrooms about, and we would bet there is at least one in every major city in the UK. Some of these darkrooms that have been long established, may have fallen off the map a bit due to a lack of social media presence, or a website that was built in the 90s 😅. But they are still there, and need your support! We hope that by collaborating with SAIM we can put them on the map and get lots of you excited about the art of the darkroom again.

Why are Community Darkrooms so important? An interview with SAIM| Bottles of Ilford chemistry


Why are Community darkrooms so important?

We asked the film community on twitter why they feel community dark rooms are important, have a look at the thread below to see what they said. There are countless reasons, but accessibility is a key factor. Darkrooms take up a lot of space, and require expensive kit! So it is brilliant to be able to go somewhere with these awesome facilities, and expert technicians who can show you the ropes.

Ahead of the workshop, Emma has interviewed Ian Jackson, one of the founders of SAIM to find our more about the Shoreditch Academy of Image Making, and why community darkrooms are so important. 


What does SAIM stand for?

SAIM stands for Shoreditch Academy of Image Making

Who founded SAIM?

It was my idea to found SAIM but you could say Adrian and are co-founders.

How long has SAIM been running?

SAIM has been going in a limited capacity for around a year after our seriously extensive facility building was made complete.

What is SAIM's goal?

SAIM………. the goal is to provide a dedicated learning facility of over 2500 sq ft. With the very best facilities available to excite students in learning environments that can lead them on to a fulfilling and rewarding creative journey. With our experience and knowledge and backed up by our specialists we offer unique and real tutoring by real professionals who have made a living in the outside world through their chosen speciality. We are now keen to see the next generation of image makers and experienced image makers benefit from what we can give.

Why are Community Darkrooms so important? An Interview with SAIM| close up of SAIM's enlarger

What facilities does SAIM have?

SAIM has fabulous darkroom and studio spaces as well as print finishing and framing……..we of course embrace digital technology and are excited to demonstrate the amazing crossover that coexists between the analogue and digital worlds……..we have four large format printers and very much encourage experimentation. In our studios we have all manner of light shaping tools and a huge range of both flash and continuous light sources. In fact our studios are fully equipped with everything and photographer would need to go about any project.

Why do you feel that community darkrooms are important?

We here at SAIM feel the darkroom is the cornerstone of the understanding of photography as a whole………we have poured an immense amount of resources into making this space switch students on to the potential of how in depth the chemistry processes can be……….open to all we love the idea of cross generational groups and people from all walks of life learning and experimenting together.

What do you love about the analogue process?

I personally have a relationship with with the analogue process that still excites me to this day……..the idea of the processes and how you can manipulate your image making through chemical treatments and timing is something wonderful……..not knowing exactly what you are going to get still holds that mystery for me……..Its a super way to spend time and is endless………the anticipation is greatest buzz.

Tell us about the upcoming workshop and what you’re looking forward to about it

The up and coming workshop is exciting for us as we get to advise and watch people be turned on by photography and darkroom practice……..we are experts in enthusing students to carry on in their photography journeys and have the rewards it has delivered to us our entire lives.


Why are Community Darkrooms so important? An interview with SAIM| image of SAIM's darkroom and enlargers


Thank you to Ian Jackson and the SAIM team for working with us on this community venture! We can't wait for the workshop and hope it to be the first of many. You can grab tickets for the workshop below, see you on 26th November! 😁


  • I just like to say I live in the North of England but if it was accessible to me I would have jumped at a ticket this makes me happy that you are keeping analogue photography alive thank you so much for all you do for us youngish photographers, I did a ba hons in photography and we learnt the basics of darkroom as my tutor was only an analogue shooter. But now the course has changed and mainly digital which is sad it isn’t being kept analogue too

  • I am not able to attend the workshop – too far to travel. If I lived in the London area it would be on my list to visit.

    John Collins

Leave a comment

Ready to dive in?

Keep Reading

View all
Summer of Phoenix - A Holiday in Greece

Summer of Phoenix: A Holiday in Greece

I spent last week on the Greek coast - the southern tip of the Peloponnese to be exact - and took the opportunity to shoot some Harman Phoenix 35mm film! While it was brilliant fun to test it through the dark winter days when it first launched in December 2023, I've been waiting to see it shine in the sun.
Vintage stereoscopic cameras, Sputnik and Stereo Graphic, displayed with an antique stereoscope in the foreground.

A Glimpse into Stereoscopy: Two Views, One Camera

Stereoscopy, stereoview, stereoscope, lenticular, anaglyph, beam splitter, parallel view, sequential view... it's time to explore the world of stereoscopic photography!  In celebration of International Stereoscopy Day on the 21st of June, we asked our resident stereoscopy enthusiast and ambassador, Tom Warland, to share his insights and journey with this creative form of photography.
Double Your Fun: Expert Tips for Your Half-Frame Film Camera

Double Your Fun: Expert Tips for Your Half-Frame Film Camera

If you're a photography enthusiast looking to spice up your camera collection, look no further than the versatile half-frame film camera. In this article, we'll explore the ins and outs of these compact cameras and provide you with expert tips to make the most of the half-frame 35mm film format!