Sustainable Darkroom

extending the sustainable garden

2023 second-year photography students add extensions to the Sustainable Darkroom Garden under the guidance of Vanessa Cowling and Svea Josephy.


In August 2021 second year photography students, under guidance of lecturers Svea Josephy and Vanessa Cowling, planted a Spekboom garden and helped begin the journey towards setting up a sustainable darkroom. The spekboom was intended to offset the carbon footprint that they would produce during the photography project. In the interests of sustainability, the photo students then planted new spekboom from cuttings, for next years’ second years. 

The sustainable darkroom project is an initiative arranged by Svea Josephy and Vanessa Cowling, assisted by Sitaara Stodel and Fortune Ngwenya. The project, which included 2nd , 3rd year and Masters’ students, involved planting a garden in the Rosedale parking lot. Students tilled the soil, put down pine discs started a compost heap, planted spinach, beetroot, colourful flowers and a Mulberry and Blueberry bush. Afterwards students laid down wood chip to keep the soil moist and watered the new plants and seeds. 

The plants have been used to make anthotypes, sustainable photographic prints made from plant pigments. They will also be using the plants to experiment with making sustainable darkroom chemicals and to do research into sustainable darkroom practices. Vanessa Cowling and Svea Josephy have contributed a chapter based on this research to the new book, “Re.source”.

Work from the Sustainable Darkroom project by Vanessa Cowling as part of her MFA study.

Sustainable Darkroom features on UCT’s website: