Toby Deveson has been taking photographs since 1989 when he was given an old Nikkormat and a 24mm lens. After trying a friend’s darkroom he set up one of his own in a damp basement and was soon addicted to the alchemy of intoxicating smells and mysterious light. Twenty years later not much has changed. The darkroom is no longer damp but the camera and lens are the same.
Toby has exhibited all over Britain including in Norwich, Lincoln, Brighton and London. He has produced work for organisations as diverse as The British Red Cross, The National Farmers Union and Brighton Council as well as photographing for bands, clothing catalogues and charities.
“I have been a photographer for over 20 years and have remained analogue throughout. I believe passionately in the beauty and power of film photography”. Toby Deveson
I like to think each of my images has a story to tell, a history and a catalogue of memories, just like an old familiar pair of shoes, or a favourite pen. And they grow stronger with time, not weaker. As I print them, study them, work on them and live with them they evolve and flourish, lending me their experiences, improving me ideally as a person, but definitely as a photographer.
They ask questions as they live within me. How is it that when the light floods through the lens so much happens, so much captured - far beyond what is frozen on film and caught in time? How does the film, in that split second capture the essence of me as well as the scene in front of it?
As the answers come to me I find they involve a pinch of magic and mysticism hidden amongst the science and chemi¬cals of analogue photography. I find they shine a light on my passion for my work, a love of the pace film forces upon me, the frustrations it provides and the boundaries I must work within.
And I hope this love and passion I feel for creating images - as well as everything else that has brought them to life - transcends the per¬sonal history and memories I share with them.
A couple of months ago I had a solo exhibition in central London. As a result of this I found myself writing endless copy for grant applications, fundraising and press releases. Throughout there was one common theme is: My passion for the survival of analogue photography.
My use of film has not wavered in 22 years, but now more than ever I find myself wanting, or needing to evangelize about the importance (and beauty) of both the negative and the darkroom.
Film is my voice yes, but more importantly it remains the foundation of digital and modern photography - and this should not be forgotten. Without the so called restrictions and limitations of film, I believe photography is in danger of being cast adrift and losing focus - excuse the pun.
As we move into an era where film and darkroom skills are no longer taught in colleges and companies like Kodak face bankruptcy, I fear that crucial skills and knowledge will be forgotten and materials will no longer be available for those of us who remain.
It is too easy, however to point the finger of blame at digital photography, to become stuck in the past or long for the good ol’ days. Too easy to resent everything new and digital and fall into the us and them trap.
The use of websites, the i-phone and i-pad, cheap home printers, social media and e-mail has revolutionised my life and that of professional photographers.
Amateur photographers now have access to hardware and software never before seen and the quantity of talented photog¬raphers out there - just take a look through flickr - is staggering.
Photography is going through a revolution - yet another one - and these are truly exciting times.
A few months before my exhibition I came across a fantastic blog by Allen Murabayashi (CEO & Co-founder of photoshelter) which I am happy to say reminded me of my love for photography - all aspects of photography - and helped inspire me as I spent endless hours in the darkroom. I urge you to look it up and read it.
As Allen so eloquently said, photographers need to stand together celebrating what we do in this golden era of photog¬raphy, not point the finger of blame or resent and resist the changes we are witnessing. We need to support all aspects of photography, from the humble pinhole to the cutting edge technology of whatever is around the next corner.
All I hope is that while we embrace and celebrate the now (and future) of photography, and all the promise it holds, we don’t forget where we have come from. Lessons learnt in the past - whether in morality or technique - are as relevant now as they were then.
I truly believe that as a photographer you can only fulfil your potential if you understand and learn from what has gone before you.
For more information on Toby, visit his website.