Photography as a fine art tool
VAC Lusaka 2000


The intention of the workshop was to set up a technical resource in Photography at the Henry Tayali Visual Arts Centre in the Showgrounds, Lusaka, lead introductions upon the correct use of the equipment for a group of Zambian artists and advice upon strategy for maintaining the facility for the future.

In order to contextualize the technical aspect of the workshop there was planned a series of talks upon the use of photography within fine arts.

The two week duration of the workshop was broken down into: week 1. technical and theoretical instruction, week 2; practical application of experience gained to culminate in a public exhibition.


Week 1
Technical instructions;

1. A breakdown of the typical stages in any photographic process from inception to production.

2. An introduction to the underlying principles of how light works and what a camera is. This was demonstrated through the construction of a walk in camera obscura

3. An introduction to a typical reflex single reflex camera, the purpose of its various controls and how they work, with particular emphasis upon focus of field, aperture and shutter speed. Specific attention was given to the operation of the equipment supplied by NORAD for VAC.

4. An introduction to black and white film, the difference varieties, what is meant by film speed, instructions upon processing.

5. An introduction to a standard enlarger, correct darkroom procedures. What is multigrade, the use of colour head for multigrade printing. The varieties of paper available. Instruction upon printing and paper process.


Workshops (Phaze 1)
Workshops (Phaze 2)

6. Discussion of modes of presentation of finished work.

7. Set up and demonstrate a basic E. 6. (colour slide) processing facility.

8. Conduct an introduction to documentation of work for artists, supply a fact-sheet.

Theory Component

Upon a typical day during the first week, this was delivered as a daily talk between 9:00 am and 10:30 am and was combined with an information session upon aims for the day.

From a general introduction to artists use of photography on Sunday 19th November, the talk employed;

1. The camera and its relationship to painting and pictorial space.
2. Stories and allegories, construction narrative.
3. A political perspective, photography as a means to an end
4. Portrait, standpoint and outlook
5. Landscape, a sense of place
6. Time.

The range of artists touched upon and discussed was considered and included;

Marina/Ulay Abramovic
Keith Arnett
Jan Bas Alder
John Balderssari
Berndt+ Hiller Becker
Christian Boltanski
Graham Budgett
James Casehere
Gregory Credson

This bit represents a very broad survey of the activities of artists working within photography. There is a wide range of attitudes, philosophy and technique, intended to show that the medium can be engaged with a great may levels.
In addition to this series, I gave a presentation of my own work as a evening talk.

Week 2

This was devoted to putting into practice the experience gained in the first week. The emphasis was upon producing a body of work hic would be presented publicly as an exhibition of the final Saturday. It was consistent with the spirit of the workshop and force of circumstance that the work produced was not necessarily identifiable artists, but arose from combined effort. Often working as a group, one artist would propose an idea, another would act it, another would photograph it and yet another may print it. The principle of collaboration was an enduring characteristic of this workshop.

The range of work produced is such a short time was impressive; there was a large collection of black and white prints 10/8 size which employed all kinds of issues from narrative or constructed series to unique composed images. Some of these were selected out to form a more carefully produced series on a larger 20”/16” scale.

Two carousels of slides were exhibited. These were selections which emplores sequence narrative, experiments with time, light and layers of information through to fine portraiture. A number of images roughly 1m/1m produced by the camera obscura were shown, these were both positive and negative and in their presence and sheer physicality provided a foil to the more pictorial nature of bulk of the show. This gave rise to some pinhole camera works by the smaller group of participants.


I was thoroughly delighted that from such a demanding workshop a large bode of high quality and challenging work should be produced. Normally I would not consider undertaking so much in such a short time, but in this case understand that it was a one shot event, and anything left out could not be tacked in later; we had to go for it.
My respect and congratulations have to the students for their enthusiasm and ability to get up to speed so quickly, and my appreciation of the efforts made by Jerry Miko and Leornard Musabula, going to enormous lengths to ensure that the facility was up and running when needed.


Obviously a part of the exercise was that we should leave behind a workable facility which would become an asset for the Visual Arts Centre.
I have initiated a discussion with VAC over the sustainability of the facility and how it may fund itself. Not to go into detail here, the outline is that I have suggested that suitably qualified artists approved by VAC are invited to form a club for which there would be a subscription, determined by VAC. This would gain access to the facility and equipment. The subscription would provide capital for renewal of chemicals and maintenance. Other materials such as paper and film should sold, perhaps at a discount to members.
The E.6 process facility should be made available to members at a discount price but care should be taken to make the most economical use of it i.e. 4 films per process batch.
There could be a day membership made for those artists who can demonstrate their competence to use the facility and who would not usually use it with an intensity justifying a year’s subscription.
The E.6 process could be run commercially at a competitive rate.
It is most important to bear in mind that the object of the exercise is to keep the facility in good order and equipped for the benefit of the visual arts community. This should be seen as a priority when considering the terms under which it is used. If it is maintained well, it is obvious that any further round of spending could be devoted to extending the facility. If it is not maintained the same funds would easily be used up reviving it.

The Future

The facility in place has the potential to be extended into a colour print (from negative) process. All of the equipment in there, what is needed is C41. chemicals, paper, film and instruction.

The building housing the darkroom would make a perfect photographic studio; to which end I would recommend setting a flash facility, tungsten lighting, backdrop material, medium format camera, light meter. This would need a technical introduction.
It would be well to consider augmenting the current facility and consideration could be given to finishing and presentation.

If this is to become a national facility it may be wise to consider some kind of basic residential unit for artists from the provinces to book themselves into when the wish to work with it. .....