Yay! I developed my first black and white photograph! Okay, it was a photogram, and this assignment was completed two weeks ago. Nevertheless, I experienced what it was like to walk in the dark room. It felt like I walked into a world that was only held for the privileged few, a sacred room where magic can happen or a nightmare of undeveloped nothingness could appear.
My professor introduced us to the dark room by having each student compose and process a photogram, which is a photographic image created by placing objects directly onto the surface of the RC paper and exposing it light. It’s a direct 1:1 photo. Due to the size of our class, we were divided into two groups, and I was part of the second group.
PBS’s History of American Photography
As we waited for our turn to experience the dark room, the other students and I had the privilege of watching a PBS’s documentary on the history of American photography. Although we weren’t required to take notes, I couldn’t help it. Everything that came out of the mouths of those interviewed were precious words of history, wisdom, and family anecdotes about how photographs altered the way we viewed one another and our world.
When the “brownie box” (aka first analog camera) became accessible to the American family in the early 1900s, taking family photographs were no longer a special occasion in which a family took stiff, still family portraits once or twice in their lifetime. Placing a camera in the hands of an amateur photographer created a new way in which people shared family and community events to major historical events, photos from the front lines (e.g., WWI and WWII to the present).
I think one could safely say the same thing when digital cameras became affordable to the rest of us, or when Apple created the iPhone that had a built-in high-resolution camera. It revolutionized photography and the famous selfie in seconds. But that’s probably for another post at another time.
Going into the Darkroom
When it came time for our group to go into the darkroom, we waited outside for our introduction. She walked us down the hall, and one-by-one, we walked into a revolving black door to keep white light out of the dimly, ambient-lit darkroom. Like stepping into the old British tv show version of “Doctor Who,” we entered an alternate world filled with dark orange ambient lighting, and the smells and sounds of what many would consider an inorganic chemistry lab. Hmmm…come to think of it. I reminded me a lot of my college chemistry lab.
The photo on the right is taken with flash on my camera phone, while the other left photo is what you would see when you enter a commercial building.
The Unintended Photogram
If you saw the photogram collage my professor prepared of several of my classmates’ work on Facebook, I’d like to tell you how embarrassed I am of the few I made.
This last one…well, it turned into something completely different from what I had intended.
Doesn’t it look like you are looking up the skirt of a G. I. Joe figurine, if Joe was wearing a skirt? Oh well. Back to the drawing board. It can only get better from here, right?
From my hometown to yours,