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Phase 4

The Caravan Darkroom.

A series of photographic workshops designed specifically for young people was developed aiming to provide a valuable learning experience for the young artists, allowing them the opportunity to gain hitherto unavailable access to photography and to develop their creative skills. In sharing my knowledge and passion for darkroom photography, I was able provide young people with the opportunity to learn valuable skills which help to foster their creativity and self-expression. Using an old caravan, I created a mobile darkroom that can be taken to a variety of different locations. By reaching parts of the country not often provided by extra-curricular arts education, I hope to help by breaking down barriers of travel and cost for young people wishing to take part in the workshops.


A mobile darkroom can be a transformative tool. For many young people in deprived areas, it can offer them a multitude of benefits and skills. Firstly, it provides an accessible and affordable opportunity to engage with the art of photography. Having a darkroom on wheels eliminates the need for expensive equipment and studio space. It also makes it feasible for those with limited resources to participate. Furthermore, the process of developing film and printing photographs in a darkroom fosters a range of skills. Patience, attention to detail, and problem-solving all become crucial as they navigate the intricacies of film processing. The hands-on nature of working with chemicals and enlargers enhances their understanding of science and optics. Moreover, the art of composition and storytelling through visual imagery is honed, encouraging self-expression and critical thinking. By bringing a mobile darkroom to economically deprived areas, I hope to offer young people an opportunity to engage with photography and storytelling in an affordable and supported environment.


The mobile darkroom can serve as a catalyst for personal development and artistic expression but can also help with the acquisition of invaluable skills, paving the way for a brighter future for young people.

It was a two part journey to The Caravan Darkroom phase of the EYM project; part 1 being the creation of the mobile darkroom and my own journey, the challenges and how I grew as a result. The second part; The Caravan Darkroom in action within the community and collaboration with a local high school.

The Conversion

I travelled from Hull to Oxford to collect the caravan. I'd never towed anything in my life, so this was a new experience for me. After the drive back and after towing the caravan around Hull and East Yorkshire for the workshops, I feel extremely confident in my towing abilities.

The first part of the conversion was to fix any damage. One skylight was completely destroyed and the other wasn't far behind, these were both repaired as a priority. I ripped out the smelly old carpet and tried to lay some lino down instead, this went horribly wrong and I had also get rid of the lino. I eventually settled on self adhesive tiles which were much easier for an amateur to install. This was to make cleaning easier in case of any spillages.

Next up, I needed to plan where everything was going to go so I made a few designs and listed the pro's and con's of each before I finally decided which layout to go with on the inside.

I decided on a removable work top to ensure that the caravan could remain functional as accommodation if it was required. After creating a lightweight frame for the worktop with wooden batons, I topped it with a sheet of 9mm plywood then wrapped the entire worktop in a vinyl to make cleaning up any chemical spills easier. This is where we would be doing the "wet work."

I left the other side of the caravan seating alone. I felt having somewhere for the young artists and their guardians to sit during the inductions would be a great use of that space. I then used the wardrobe for the enlarger. For this,  used some of the left over plywood to create a shelf for the enlarger, which left extra space underneath to house the CCTV monitoring station.

The blacking out of the windows took several attempts. I first used heavy duty window film and black duct tape. A few days later, this fell down and left me back at square one. After posting this to the projects Instagram account, I was advised that tinfoil on the windows is a good cheap alternative. This worked...briefly. holes kept appearing and I had to re-do the tin foil several times. in the end, I found some extremely light weight black out fabric and heavy duty Velcro. This solved the problem and plunged the caravan in to total darkness.

A couple of red safe lights were then fitted along with the safety signage. The only thing left to do at this point was to sort out the issue of the electrics. Initially, I'd purchased a 12v caravan leisure battery and solar panel, but on closer inspection, the 12v system and wiring was a complete mess and quite honestly it would have been unsafe to use. I tested the 24v electric hook up to the house mains and thankfully this worked. I sold the 12v leisure battery and the solar panel and created a Go Fund Me page to start trying to obtain a solar power bank which I could plug the hook up cable into. Success! 

Finally, it was time to paint the exterior. I wanted it be be recognisable and to turn heads. I took photos of the exterior and photoshopped on the idea I'd had for the paint job to see how it might look in reality. I chose red for the roof, and top and bottom of the side panels with black for the middle of the side panels and the front and back of the caravan. I used the black strip on the sides of the caravan to add white squares, replicating the sprockets on 35mm film, which has become synonymous with analogue photography. The red and black paint scheme represents the only two colours you see in the darkroom whilst working. 

I did a test printing session in The Caravan Darkroom and it worked a treat! The basic concept was proven and now all I needed to do was ensure I could still tow it out into the community. I left the village of Burstwick where I was living and set off on a little tour of the local area on what became The Caravan Darkroom's maiden voyage since the conversion. I passed through Thorngumbald, Keyingham, Ottringham and Sunk Island before heading back to put the finishing touched in.

"The process of converting an old caravan into the Caravan Darkroom has been a remarkable and fulfilling adventure. Despite its challenges, the journey has proved to be immensely rewarding. Not only have I had the opportunity to share my knowledge with others during the workshops, but I have also acquired invaluable skills throughout the creation of the darkroom itself.


In the realm of DIY projects, I have often struggled to achieve satisfactory results. However, this experience has been a transformative one, teaching me a multitude of skills within a short span of time. From carpentry to problem solving, I have expanded my repertoire and gained new knowledge. The act of turning my vision into a tangible reality has shown me that the value lies not only in the final product but also in my journey of transforming of the old caravan into a functional darkroom.


This journey has proven that the transformation extends far beyond the physical space. It has become a symbol of my own journey, reflecting the progress, resilience, personal growth and empowerment. " - Chris G Smith, The Caravan Darkroom Book

The Workshops

In total, the participants engaged in 3 workshops each. 

Workshop 1 - Introduction to the project, the brief and the camera. The time between the first and second workshop allowed the participants to work independent of me as a facilitator to ensure I did not influence their images. The participants were asked to choose which brief they would like to fulfil, either "Hopes and Dreams" or "A Message to the World." Each brief was kept simple, with a direction on which to focus their attention while giving them full creative control to express themselves.

Workshop 2 - Film development using Caffenol to instil eco-friendly and sustainable practice while providing hands-on practical experience. As with the earlier iterations of Enthusing Young Minds, the participants were taught how the chemicals react with the film and with each other. The waste chemicals produced from this process was all mixed together and fed to potted plants which are able to absorb any toxins, preventing them form entering the water network or the earth in the areas we're working. These plants subsequently provide us with more material to use in the creation of homemade developers.

Workshop 3 - The Caravan Darkroom Printing. The most important part of this project is the printing of the images. The participants would not have as much of a connection to the images they’re printing if they hadn’t taken those images themselves, making Workshops 1 and 2 critical for Workshop 3 to be successful. The Caravan Darkroom was taken to locations around Hull and East Yorkshire where it would be easier to access for the participants. The locations were chosen due to proximity to their homes and safety of Caravan Darkroom and the wider public.

Malet Lambert School, Hull, East Yorkshire

This whole process was repeated with a high school GCSE art class in Hull. There were 12 participants involved. Workshop 1 was delivered in the same way as above. They were then able to use their 2 week Easter break to capture their images in preparation for Workshop 2. Due to time constraints, Workshop 2 had be be slightly adjusted to enable us getting all the films developed within the allotted times, the Caffenol had to be pre-mixed with enough to develop multiple films at a time.

For Workshop 3, the class had to be split into 3 groups and for the workshop to take place over 3 consecutive weeks ensuring each group got their turn to print.

The Results

A total of 27 young people participated in The Caravan Darkroom project. The participants were split into two key groups: a GCSE art class from a local high school (average age – 14, range 14-15, n=12) and local young people taking part during their own free time (average age – 13, range 8-20), n=15). There was an almost even split of briefs chosen with 14 participants choosing hopes and dreams (5 from the school and 9 independents) and 13 choosing my message to the world (7 from the school and 6 independents.

Upon completion of the workshop 24 participants were interviewed. Most participants stated that they would like to continue with photography (88%; hobbyist 5%, professional 29%). Those who stated that they would continue with photography varied in how they wished to continue the medium; analogue (38%), digital (48%) or mobile phones (14%).

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Let’s Collaborate...

If you have any ideas about a collaboration, please do send me a message.

Do you have an exhibition space? Would you like to exhibit this work?

I am also looking for funding in order to keep this project running for as long as possible; donations of funds, equipment, film, paper or chemistry would be highly appreciated.

Thanks for submitting!



Get your copy of the Enthusing Young Minds Zines.

Issue 1 - Free Reign  OUT NOW!

Issue 2 - See Me   OUT NOW!

Issue 3 - Remember When   OUT NOW!

£6.50 each or 3 for £15 (plus p&p)

All profits help to fund the continuation of the project.

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