A photographer who refuses to let analogue fade into history has converted his mother’s apartment into Phnom Penh’s only professional black and white printing laboratory.
Moul Monor, who studied photography in Paris, said the idea for Analogue Prints Laboratory (L’atelier Argentique) was born out of his frustration at the lack of facilities dedicated to grayscale in Phnom Penh.
“I created it firstly for my own personal use and secondly for teaching and workshops and third to provide space for other professional photographers who can’t find any place to work on film in their own darkroom,” Monor said.
Analogue photography – which uses film to capture images which are then printed on photographic paper in a darkroom – has almost become extinct due to the ease and low cost of digital photography.
However, Monor said he enjoyed the physical process and level of control offered by analogue photography, which involves projecting film images onto light sensitive paper and then dousing the paper in developing chemicals to reveal the photograph.
“I like to be able to touch the paper, to alter the photo as it is being printed. There’s a magic that comes from the manual printing process.”
Monor a French-Cambodian who splits his time between Phnom Penh and Paris, was assisted in setting up the laboratory by local artist and photographer Lim Sokchanlina with whom he has been friends since their first meeting back in 2011.
Lina said producing print analogue photographs was something he had wanted to do since he first started taking photographs.
The analogue laboratory would help motivate young photographers and artists just getting into the medium, he went on to say.
“It’s so exciting to be able to touch the images [as they are being developed] and even more to be able to see them as they appear on the blank paper,” he said.
Monor sourced all the necessary materials from suppliers in Paris and recently acquired five enlargers, which are used to project the images from the film on to the blank photographic paper.
He said that the laboratory would not offer a straight black and white photo printing service.
Instead, he and Lina plan to rent out the laboratory for use by professional photographers as well as also offering workshops and short courses in black and white analogue printing.
“Most analogue photographers prefer to print the photos themselves,” he said.
“It’s important for younger photographers to know this basic history and skills of photography,” Monor said.
The laboratory – which officially opened on Friday – takes up an entire floor of the apartment, which is owned by Monor’s mother.
“She’s very happy I turned her house into a photography laboratory,” Monor said.
“She is happy to see me fulfilled and enjoying my passion in analogue photography.”