Industry Insight: Noirfoto, VN

Name: Noirfoto Darkroom – Studio – Gallery
Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Established: 2017

I loved visiting Noirfoto when I was living in Vietnam myself – it’s an amazing space and I could just feel your overwhelming passion for film photography as I spoke with you! Introduce our readers to Noirfoto.
Noirfoto is the only open access, professionally equipped darkroom in Vietnam. We’re dedicated to analog printmaking with both traditional silver gelatin and alternative techniques. As well as the darkroom we’ve got a studio space and gallery that artists can make, share and exhibit their work. Oh, and a garden for sunbathing, sun prints and frog spotting. Noirfoto is coming up to its second birthday – how has it evolved over time?
We started as a pretty squashed 8sqm darkroom on the second floor of a coffee shop. This summer we moved to a much bigger space, right next to the river. When our space was small we were limited to just printing black and white onto small paper. Having a studio and garden space has helped us introduce new techniques and methods – like pinhole, lumen ad cyanotype printing. Because we want everyone to feel involved – we run all ages workshops, art talks and exhibitions as well.It’s really interesting that you have chosen to specialise in black and white photography, we’d love to hear more about this decision.
Well as they say, less is more. There’s so much to learn and focus on within black and white photography, it’s definitely not as limited as it would appear from the outside. Nowhere else in Vietnam offers professional darkroom services whilst giving people the chance to give it a go themselves. The magic moment of seeing an image emerge from nothing deserves to be shared!

How did your interest in photography and more specifically, film and the darkroom, begin?
I’ve been interested in photography since I was young but was only able to buy a digital camera when I got a salary job. That’s when I completely fell in love with it, quit my job, and went to study photography in Sweden. That’s where I learnt all about black and white photography and how to process and print. Living in Sweden and Paris meant I was constantly inspired by my surroundings and shooting every day. Tell us about the film photography community in Vietnam.
The community is definitely growing rapidly. There are lots of social media groups dedicated to film photography and buying and selling film cameras, as well as lots of cafes – Darkroom Cafe for example, where camera enthusiasts gather and show off their kit. It is easy to buy good cameras for under $150. But, in all honesty, I think many people don’t use them to their full potential, using them as fashion accessories, or just to pose for photos with them! I’d like to see more people in Vietnam really push the creative potential of film.

You were recently interviewed for Vietnamese television – tell us about that experience!
I’ve been on a few programs actually! I get interviewed about the darkroom, the workshops we run, and black and white photography. Although I think it’s good for Noirfoto and a great way to expand our community, personally I get a bit shy – I prefer to be shooting and printing alone.

What camera, lens, stock and genre do you personally favour?
I love many – from large format cameras to pocket sized point and shoots. My favourites are my Pentax 67, my Nikon used with my 55mm f1.2 lens. For shooting portraits, nude portraits and still lives I use Ilford HP5+ and Kodak Tri-X. If you’re not in the darkroom or out shooting, what would we find you doing?
I’ve become a very enthusiastic amateur gardener because of the garden at Noirfoto. We’re trying to grow our own fruits and vegetables. Also my daughter is homeschooled so that obviously requires a lot of care, energy and attention!There are many facets to Noirfoto; the darkroom, studio, shop, workshops. Now, you’ve opened a gallery space. What does the future hold for Noirfoto?
I want to make Noirfoto an art and culture hub where artists, art lovers and other creative people can not only visit but use it and feel like its theirs – for a communal sense of ownership. I can only keep it running with the input and ideas of other people.

Lasting thoughts.
I hope what we do here can continue to reach more people, to grow an enthusiastic and passionate community of people working with black and white photography. Everyone can support Noirfoto in different ways, whether they buy a print at one of our art sales or come to our exhibitions.

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