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You’ll find photographer Dan Marsh in the Darkroom

The Byron Bay film devotee is committed to sharing his love of the analog development process with his local community.

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Earlier this month, Dan Marsh was tapped by Jägermeister for their Meisterpieces project; an ongoing series which sees hands-on makers craft works inspired by the spirit’s German heritage. This article is presented in partnership with Jägermeister. 

Byron Bay photographer Dan Marsh’s work brims with a natural adoration of his medium. The image-maker’s passion extends through every step of the process; from framing shots out in the field to enlarging negatives in the darkroom. Recently, Dan turned his love for the development process into The Bayou Film Lab, a hub for celluloid enthusiasts. Marsh hopes the multifunctional Byron space will educate and provide opportunities for those who share his enthusiasm.

Hey Dan, thanks for chatting today. I’d like to start by hearing about some of your earliest experiences shooting film.
The earliest moments would have to be doing black and white photography in high school. Being in the dark room, that’s sort of where it all started. But I probably had a good 10 or 12 year hiatus from it, and then really got back into shooting film when I was travelling through Mexico.

What was your work like back then, in high school?
It was really just skating stuff with my mates, as everyone does. We were just taking photos for the fun of it, but there was also the joy of being about to process [the film] at the same time.

You work is very varied—you shoot industrial landscape, but also beautiful portraits.  What do you feel most comfortable shooting?
I’ve always loved portraiture, but I’ve grown to really love something a bit more natural. I head out west [of Byron Bay] these days, I like going on those little missions over three or four days, there’s just something to be said about smaller towns where there isn’t so much going on. Generally it’s something I do alone. It’s not so much the landscapes themselves, I like places where there’s not much going on. I think cycling around Australia  really changed how I see things. I generally find that there’s more beauty when there’s nothing there. I like solitude, so I find that going out and camping by myself is my comfort.

Can you tell us a bit more about that cycling trip?
Three years ago I cycled half way ‘round Australia, something like 13,000kms. Starting in Melbourne, I rode down the coast to Adelaide, then through the Barossa Valley, The Flinders Ranges and all the way up the centre of Australia through to Uluru and Cairns before heading back toward Melbourne, but only making it as far as Byron. 

You recently produced a ‘Meisterpiece’ zine for Jägermeister filled with photos you made in Melbourne. How did photographing the city differ to shooting in those natural environments?
It was quite interesting actually, I’d hadn’t really shot any street photography for years, maybe since finishing university. It was cool, it gave me a chance to look at things differently. I had to really look at Melbourne with new eyes. It was a really rewarding couple of days of shooting, but it definitely had its challenges. For the work itself, I was looking for more shapes and shadows, rather than big open spaces. I was looking for grittiness within the city.

You process all of your work through your Bayou Film Lab in Byron Bay. Can you tell us about the space?
We started Bayou about 15 months ago. I’d had this idea of starting a film lab for a while and I thought Byron needed it, so we just went for it. We kind of service everyone in the area—Byron isn’t a big place, but it’s got a pretty big creative community here—so it’s nice to have the lab there. We’ve just started doing workshops to teach people how to process, how to work in a darkroom and print, along with a few other workshops to coincide with all of that. I’ve always wanted a space with a darkroom and studio, I’ve always been about the processes and printing. I think sharing that [printing] knowledge to keep it going has been great.

Where do you find this affection for the darkroom?
Well, I’ve always worked harder for things sometimes [laughs]. I’ve always wanted to know how to do everything, to go back and learn these old processes, the techniques and recipes that make the work happen. For me, photography isn’t just about taking photos, it’s also about those processes, it’s about working toward the photo. When I was in university I was lucky enough to have an amazing darkroom and teachers who allowed me to spend hours upon hours in there. It’s pretty much where I lived when I was at uni. It’s tiring, it’s definitely not easy, but there’s something really special about it. When you make a final finished print, there’s a real sense of reward.

Are there any plans for travelling and creating new work in the coming months?
I’m probably going to try and head out West again soon and eventually do something with it—or I might not, I may just keep driving West and taking photos [laughs]. I’ve got quite a few workshops at Bayou coming up, but hopefully next year I’ll have some time to do some projects again. I’m very attached to Australia at the moment. I’ve done a lot of travel, but I think after the cycling project, I’ve just got this massive love for the country. Once you’ve travelled around this country, you begin to realise that it’s bloody amazing to be here. The bike ride was the best thing I ever did, it was unbelievable. The landscape,  the people, there are so many moments and places that I’ll never forget that I didn’t even get a chance to capture. My partner is always saying, ‘We should go away soon,’ and I’m like, ‘Maybe down the coast or out West’ [laughs]. I’m happy and content for the time being, I’ve grown a real love for this place.

Watch Dan Marsh craft his original ‘Meisterpiece’ below.

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