The Dark Room

Today, we know photography as something that is accessible to anyone with a phone, digital camera, whatever is convenient. But what about photography that maybe isn’t as simple as touching a button?

I’ve talked about this before in my Diane Arbus post, but it wasn’t until recently that we could take a photo in less than five seconds. It used to take up to seven minutes to capture a single photograph.

Whats the worth in photography?

I think digital photography makes a lot of us take photography for granted. Is there actually worth and effort in a picture you took on your phone? Does Snapchat count as art? Is there any value to photography anymore?

My answer is yes. I think there is beauty in being able to document moments, capturing the now. I think there is thought and skill put into instant photos. That being said there are also a lot of pictures that are not art. Again, it all depends on your definition of art.

Although I appreciate modern photography,  I have found true love in the art of the dark room.

Manual Photography

The dark room is a place to develop photos taken manually. That’s right. The ol’ roll of Kodak film that you load into the camera, conscious to not expose the actual film to any light, and developing the photos yourself.

The purpose of this blog post is not to teach you how to unnamed-2develop your own photos in the dark room. 1) Lets be realistic, would you actually do it? Probably not. & 2) There are already a million postings on the internet that provide you with a step-by-step process. I think me telling you would be throwing words into an abyss.

Instead I want to talk about why I think it is such a valuable process. Consider this as more of an argument for using the dark room, not a how-to.
Whats so great about the dark room?
First, you’ll appreciate your photos more. The process to manually develop a photograph can take hours. You have to develop the roll, adjust the film, project the photo, develop the photo, time everything perfectly, it’s a lot of work. The payoff is much greater when you have to actually take the time and do it yourself.
Second, you’ll gain technical skills. Not only is developing photos timely, but it requires you to perfect the process. Since you’re working with chemicals everything is very sensitive. Things to pay attention to are temperature of the chemicals, the amouunnamed-1nt of light exposure in the room, aperture, etc.
I think the hardest part of the process is getting the roll of film into the developing canister. It is pitch black in the room, you have to pop the roll of film open with a can opener- in complete darkness, get the film out of the canister without touching it, and roll it onto a spool. The reasoning for the darkness is because you can’t expose the film to light until it is fully developed or else everything will fog over.
Third, you’ll be more relaxed. After the darkness you can use a safe-light to illuminate the room. It emits a soft red glow. I also like to play my music while I’m in the dark room. Wilco is usually the band of choice for this activity. Its not rare to be alone in the dark room so just picture this: you’re working through a set process (its almost mindless once you get the hang of it), there’s a soft red glow illuminating the room, and Jesus Etc. by Wilco is quietly playing.
This is an artistic process that is fading out. I think it holds a lot of value and sentiment and should be more appreciated than it is.
Even if you’re not into photography or you don’t want to go into a dark room, I hope I’ve at least shed some light on why it is something to be appreciated.
All photos are mine.

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