I couldn’t wait to give my friends the pictures I’d printed in the dark room. Handing them physical photos, instead of texting or sharing them on Facebook, felt special. I know they felt it too.
I always wanted to take Photography I, but the idea of taking a film photography class scared me. I was worried I wouldn’t be able to master technology that was so manual, but it turned out that the kinds of machines I learned how to use felt more real and satisfying to me than any technology I use today. The 35mm camera, the enlarger machines in the dark room, the black and white film, the chemicals and the light-sensitive fiber-based paper turned out to make a lot of sense to me. So I decided to take Photography I last semester.
My professor told us there aren’t many colleges in the UnitedStates that still have working dark rooms. But Conn has a dark room that’s used heavily by several classes each semester. The class I took used only black and white film and we all took photos using 35mm cameras. It was daunting at first. I remember sitting in the first few classes thinking how unclear my notes were. “What is the aperture?” and “How do I change and regulate the shutter speed?” My classmates and I looked at each other and laughed a little. We were all clueless and in the same boat. However, over time I learned how to take the film out of the camera and put it on the reel in complete darkness. I learned how the clunky timers and enlarging machines worked and I eventually produced some work. Every Thursday in class we’d present our photos. I loved watching how gradually, week after week, the photos on the walls of the classroom got better. Eventually fewer and fewer people were producing blurry or wrongly shaded prints. At the end of the semester my professor chose everyone’s best picture and displayed them in Cummings, the art building on campus. Even though it wasn’t an official show, it still felt good to see something that I did, step by step, displayed. The photo I snapped now sat on the wall. iPhone pictures could never compete.
Because I’d developed seven rolls of film over the course of last semester, there were so many pictures that I hadn’t gotten a chance to make into prints yet. So the other day I stepped into the dark room for the first time this semester. It took me a minute to remember how to do everything, but once I did I was off! It felt natural. It took so much time to learn how to really master developing film in the darkroom, but now that I have I’ll continue giving my friends and family images they can hold onto.