Darkroom printing is the traditional way of printing which photographers have used for a little more than a century. But in fact it is so diverse that it's not really honest to consider it as 'one' sort of practice. There's the silvergelatin printing, but also cyanotypes, bromoil, kallitypes (the so-called alternative techniques) and so much more.
Contrary to popular belief, there's still quite some photographers out there that continue to print traditionally in the darkroom.
- Hands-on approach: Probably the most important advantage of darkroom printing. Printing in the darkroom is a physical affair and some people like it, some people don't. But it also radically changes your workflow and the way you think about a print. Not everything is possible so you tend to work more creatively within the confines of your darkroom practice. It's like there's a set route to a final print and I have to work hard to reach that goal.
- Aesthetic value: In terms of photographic print aesthetics, it's just really hard to beat a well-executed fibre based darkroom print. This is mainly due to the way photographic printing paper is constructed. In a traditional print, the emulsion is partly transparent and when we look at a print we look through the emulsion. What we see is in fact the reflection of a 50% opaque emulsion on the base white of the print. This gives the print a somewhat three-dimensional effect that lacks in inkjet prints because the layer that holds the ink is on top of the base white of the paper.
- Uniqueness: every print is unique because every photograph is printed separately and there will always be minor variations in the workflow of that particular print.
- The fact that it has a proven archival stability adds to its charm and appeal.