Passage by Tom Goldner
Sometimes life can be rewarding; other times it presents challenges. And sometimes we need to stop, take stock and get really honest with ourselves so we can take the next best steps on our journey. For Melbourne photographer Tom Goldner, his latest series, Passage, and the overall direction of his work are a personal reflection of turning back the clock with his photography and slowing down. After spending several years working on photo-documentary projects aimed at inspiring social change in places like Ghana and Cambodia, these days he’s revisiting his first love: the time-honoured and hands-on art of film photography and darkroom printing.
“I have always applied the lessons that I learnt at Photography Studies College to my digital photography, but in recent years I felt something was missing from the way I produced a photo - the process itself,” says Goldner, who in 2014 established The Fox Darkroom in an old industrial wool store on the north-west fringe of Melbourne’s CBD. Already, The Fox Darkroom has become a hub for almost 70 photography enthusiasts and offers regular workshops that teach people how to shoot film on vintage cameras, hand develop film and print in the darkroom.
In keeping with Goldner’s penchant for all things slow, considered and nostalgic, Passage is a series of dramatic black-and-white landscapes based on his 2015 hiking trip to Mont Blanc, through Italy, France and Switzerland. And Goldner says, that by all accounts, it’s a big step away from what he has produced in the past.
Goldner established Photo for Freedom, an umbrella for a number of projects that had two very clear objectives - raise awareness of social issues through photography and raise much needed funds for grassroots organisations working towards sustainable change. “No doubt Photo for Freedom was an amazing experience and there were some great outcomes, but it also took a toll on me,” he explains. “I think having such a strong focus on, as well as emotional investment in a pretty harrowing issue like human trafficking made things very complex for me. I decided to simplify things, and I looked back at what made me fall in love with photography in the first place. And that took me back in the darkroom.”
Photographing Mont Blanc from an organic perspective helped the well-travelled Goldner get back in tune. “Mont Blanc is incredibly vast and at the same time incredibly humbling. Its extraordinary natural beauty puts everything – including life – into perspective. Those things that can tear you down often seem insignificant when you are just simplifying things.”
Equally important to this series is how the photographs were produced – namely aesthetic and deliberate silver gelatin prints of landscapes featuring rich selenium-toned blacks with dark, moody skies. “I am always talking to people about the value of print and what will come of their images in years to come,” adds Goldner, who believes there is room for both traditional and digital photography. “For me, this series puts everything I teach in my workshops into practice.”
Even though Passage is a more naturally themed body of work than what he was producing for Photo for Freedom, Goldner still finds parallels, including composition. “It doesn’t matter where you point your camera, there are still traces of humanity everywhere,” he says.
Passage will be exhibited at The Fox Darkroom’s new community focused gallery, which Goldner is currently crowdfunding for on Indiegogo, and will be published in a book by Momento Pro. Goldner is also excited to be leading Tour du Mont Blanc, an international photographic workshop held in September 2016.