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Darkroom Group’s ‘striking’ photos done old-school in Surrey Art Gallery’s new exhibit

Also, the gallery’s next Thursday Artist Talk features Alexander Erickson’s ‘Stories Through Formline’
Kel Brandner’s “Linhof” (2021, hand-crafted silver gelatin print) is among photographs featured in the “Joy of the Photographic Print” exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery. (Submitted photo courtesy Surrey Art Gallery)

At Surrey Art Gallery, a new exhibit focuses on alternative and traditional photography techniques from The Darkroom Group, members of which celebrate the slower, more labour-intensive methods used to traditionally produce photographic art.

Opened Dec. 4, the “Joy of the Photographic Print” collection is on view until Feb. 13. Admission is free.

Visitors to the exhibition will encounter a range of “striking images” produced via the darkroom process, in which an image is developed through exposing certain kinds of chemicals to light, according to an event advisory. The resulting photographs — of architecture, nature and still-life scenes — are “stark, beautiful and moving.”

Although digital photography is widely popular today, the analog techniques on display in “Joy of the Photographic Print” are still used by both professional artists and amateur photographers around the world.

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Most of the exhibited prints were created through the silver gelatin process, a method of photography that dates back to the 19th century. Photographers produce silver gelatin, lith and pinhole prints by exposing a negative of an image, captured by either digital or film photography, onto a paper coated in silver salts. Other related methods like platinum palladium, carbon transfer, and even pinhole photography are also on display at Surrey Art Gallery.

The images are a testament to the patience and acumen of each photographer, SAG assistant curator Rhys Edwards says. But they are also a snapshot of a certain time and place, calling for a moment of reflection amidst the business of everyday life.

“We may take for granted today the ability to edit images as we please on our digital devices by using filters or adjusting contrast, for example,” Edwards says. “But these methods were first developed in darkrooms. They require the extraordinary care of the photographer during the development process. It’s up to the artist to decide what aspects of the image to emphasize. In this sense, traditional photography is not unlike drawing, painting, or sculpture.”

Located at 13750 88 Ave. (Bear Creek Park), Surrey Art Gallery also currently features a two-channel video installation called “Naufragios,” by Manuel Piña. On view until March 20, 2022, the installation (Spanish for “shipwreck”) captures the artist’s concerns about utopia, migration and space.

“By editing imagery of the ocean, Piña’s work reflects upon time and image-making,” an events advisory says. “Over the course of the video, footage of the ocean endlessly twists and fragments. In the process, Piña creates dizzying geometric patterns. The project extends Piña’s ongoing investigation of ephemera and abstraction in lens-based media. His art speaks to force and movement in the form of wakes, ripples, and waves.”

Looking ahead, “Stories Through Formline” is the subject of Surrey Art Gallery Association’s first Thursday Artist Talk of the new year, featuring artist Alexander Erickson on Jan. 13, starting at 7:30 p.m. Admission is free for the 90-minute event.

“Finding inspiration in his connection to the land, Alexander Erickson makes paintings and carvings that honour stories from the past, present, and future,” notes an event post on the city’s website (

He’ll share his journey with Northwest Coast formline and how he became entranced with this art form. Each shape and line work together to convey a story heard with the heart, mind and eye, he says. “Let each piece create or disturb the peace.”

Erickson uses both traditional and contemporary materials in his work. His favourite medium is working with wood, for sculptures, masks, panels and plaques. He has also created pieces on glass, hide, canvas and paper.

A bio notes that Erickson is from the Dakelh and the Haisla. “He now lives with his family on Coast Salish Territory, known as KwitKwitlum (Coquitlam). He creates art pieces that reflect the lineage of his Haisla background while simultaneously reflecting current events. He has held onto this passion since he was young. Alexander is self-taught, with minimal instruction before going to Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art. His style is unique when depicting stories, which reflects the impact the story has on him.”

For more details about the artist, visit Surrey Art Gallery Association is online at For more details about Erickson’s Thursday Artist Talk, call 604-501-5566 or visit

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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