ABBIE COSSEY - The Little Darkroom

Abbie Cossey lives on a farmlet in Huapai, NZ with her husband Glen and their two children (6 year old Henry and 4 year old Mabel) .  Abbie's love for analog photography led them to convert a wood shed and sleep-out on their property into a studio space and Darkroom that's become Abbie's creative haven. Abbie also intends to open up this amazing tiny space as a resource for others, in which to learn and create.

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When and how did you gain your love for photography?

I was given a pink 35mm camera and a roll of film when I was quite young. I remember loading the film and getting quite a thrill from that process alone. My best friend and I went off on our bikes exploring the neighbourhood snapping away. After we had saved enough money to develop the film, it was like Christmas opening up the packet to discover the printed images inside. 

I love the way a great photograph tells us a story almost instantly. There is a lot of power in it.  When I left school, I didn't know what I wanted to do so I took a job at a professional developing lab in Hawkes Bay. Here I learnt everything to do with developing negatives and printing, struck up wonderful friendships with the local photographers and took local photography courses. This is really where my passion of the "whole process" came from.

What does it mean to you to have your own dedicated creative space at home?

It is a breath of fresh air. The rest of the property is busy, messy and muddy. But my space is still. The studio is light. Sometimes I will go days without getting out there to work but I will find time to take out a cup of coffee to just sit, think and plan. My daughter often follows me out there and puts on the radio for impromptu dance parties. When I get out there to actually work it is such a buzz.

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What inspired you to create your own darkroom? and tell us about your ideas for using it as an education resource.

We live on the edge of Auckland on a teeny tiny farm. We have plenty of space to stretch our creative itches. We had this dinky little woodshed with a sleep-out attached. I always thought the woodshed was destined for greater things than stacking piles of wood and pinecones. One day a friend told me her friend was a selling up her darkroom equipment and would I be interested in buying it. That was it! That was the missing piece of the jigsaw. The woodshed was already pitch black and the sleep out next door had lots of natural light for a studio office. Over the Christmas holidays my husband lined the walls, put on a door that he had picked up off the side of the road a few years earlier that I had been using for a desk, plumbed it and the kids and I gave it a paint job. 

Once it was finished it was an amazing experience to take my six year old son out there and show him how it works. Kids live in such an instant and technological world that the whole process was fascinating for him. I had already known that I would love to offer children this "original" experience, and his reaction to the process cemented it. There is nowhere I have found in Auckland that hires out darkrooms. Everyone seems to have ripped them out when digital arrived. I want people to have access to a space where they can print their work and get the thrill of doing it themselves like I do. I'm also going to explore experimental techniques that I think like minded people will be really interested in.

How does your stage of life inspire or conflict with your creative expression?

My surroundings and family are a constant inspiration but finding the time to feed my creativity is tricky. I find working in the darkroom needs more than the 10/15 minute slots my life often allows. Once I've mixed my chemicals, set up the job and get rocking and rolling I need at least three hours for a good session.

I am a much better mother and wife when there is something creative on the go, even if it is just a thought whizzing around my mind. At this stage of my life, my time is spent mostly as a mother, but over the next year I can see my time expanding to allow more for my creative ventures. 

What would you say to other creative mums who need some encouragement?

Take the snipets of creativity when you can, try and involve your family and be kind to yourself. Write down/draw all of your ideas, one day you will have time to come back to them!

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A website and business plan for The Little Darkroom is still a work in progress. Keep an eye on for further developments. In the meantime you can follow Abbies' journey on Instagram .