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Troppo Noir

A revivial of film photography has been felt in many areas around the world, but for tropical photographer Mark Roy, the lack of a dark room in Darwin took him to Cambodia to develop his work, which documents life between the Tropic of Capricorn and Cancer.

By Tamara Howie

Roy first ventured to warmer climes a decade ago, and while he is used to the “oddities and vagaries of the tropics”, he still feels an exotic atmosphere in the humid air.

“Arriving at a new place in the tropics, I can’t help but feel wild, intoxicating adventures await. The reality is usually far more torpid, humid and mundane,” he says.

After an exhibition in 2009 Roy changed his approach to photogra-phy and ditched his big bulky cam-era, now using a “tiny Leica from about 1952” for a slower and more considered approach – an “antidote to the venomous, relentless pace of digital.”

“(I used to) find myself looking for the shot. Checking the light, the angles, the scene, the possibilities. Not present in the here and now,” he says.

“(Now) I think less about the image and more about where I am, and what I’m experiencing.

“When a photograph works, it again evokes those feelings in me, of a time and a place, rather than the technical act of photographing.”

Roy also didn’t approach his photography with any plans for the images to be exhibited.

“They are almost deliberately pointless, the antithesis of my bread-and-butter newspaper images,” he says.

“There is no reason behind these images. They are irrational, useless artefacts that serve no purpose.”

Despite this, the images will be on show in Darwin after Roy travelled back to Cambodia to print in the community-based Darkroom Phnom Penh as there were no options in Darwin.

“Like Australia, the US, and Europe, Asia is undergoing a film revival, and there is a very small but enthusiastic band of film photographers in Phnom Penh. In part, I wanted to support them by supporting the darkroom space, and ran a couple of film-to-print workshops during the four months I was there. But I also feel a strong connection to the place.  

“It was a long and elaborate process to achieve the look I was after in the prints, working with antiquated Russian suitcase enlargers and ancient mechanical timers that were marvels of inaccuracy. But I enjoyed the challenge. 

“It was also very rewarding to be able to pass these nearly extinct skills onto a new generation.”

Thu 7 – Fri 15 Mar | Opening Thu 7 Mar, 5.30pm | Art Decor, Darwin | Free |

See the event listing.

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