4 Long Blacks

The South Australian Living Artists Festival  (SALA) is coming to the Skilly Hills Function Centre. An exhibition will display my darkroom photographs of country-style coffee shops located in the Mid North. In case you don’t know what SALA is check here.

In the Mid North, coffee is sold in many interesting places, including dedicated cafes, general stores, old shops, old banks, bike hire shops, pubs, mobile vans and trailers, service stations, bakeries, wineries, post offices, an old emporium, and more. The quality of the coffee varies but mostly the service is friendly country style. I love to try out a new cafe, sit down with a long black, a cake maybe and a newspaper, and pass a pleasant and leisurely half hour. Chatting to the staff is a bonus.


I have been casually photographing coffee shops for years so it is no surprise to choose this as a project for a SALA exhibition. And it is an opportunity for me to dabble in film cameras (I have many) and darkroom processing. The quirky part of this exhibit is that the photographs will be printed using a coffee-based developer and the coffee used for each print will be obtained from the coffee houses photographed. For each printing session I use four long blacks’ worth of coffee, hence the title of the show. This developer is eco friendly and works amazingly well, except that it stains the print paper a pale yellow, resulting in a vintage look to the prints. But I like the look.


I have only just started the 4 Long Blacks project and there is a lot to do before the exhibition opens in August. Unfortunately I will have to drive around the country side finding interesting cafes to photograph and stop at them for a coffee and a chat. (Its a hard life.) Because I have sampled many  of the region’s cafes in the past I have a good head start. But there are plenty more to try. In my photographs I am hoping to include more than just the buildings.  Shops that sell coffee are social venues, much like pubs, so I will try to include the owners and workers and customers too.


The exhibition will be open every Saturday and Sunday throughout August, from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm. As far as I know Skilly Chapel has never hosted an exhibition before and I have never arranged one. This will be an adventure. Wish me luck.


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