Darkroom Feature

The enlarger machines inside the dark room are necessary to develop the photos to be in the best quality.

Yiming Fu, Staff Writer

Snap a selfie, put a filter on it and send it to a friend. Photo taking and sharing is becoming quicker and simpler as higher quality cameras become commonplace on phones.

In the Photography Foundations class offered at the high school, students are exposed to the medium of film photography and the process of developing prints in a darkroom. Though this a slow, occasionally laborious process, students gain insight into the dedication and focus required to deliver beautiful results.

According to sophomore Grace Sokolow, one of the main differences between digital and film photography is that students have to wait to see their results when they shoot film. Precision and focus are crucial as there are only a limited number of shots.

“It’s interesting because you can’t see what you’re taking when you actually take the picture. You have to kind of guess, and so everything turns out a little different than what you expect,” Sokolow said.

After shooting, processing and developing film, students use the darkroom to expose photo paper with enlarger machines. A test strip is typically made, where students try out different light exposures which produce different levels of depth and contrast on the final prints. Generally, the longer a print is exposed to light, the darker it becomes. It is also necessary to pay attention to focus, graininess and desired size of the print.

Finally, students proceed to develop and perfect the image through a process of three chemical baths: the developer, stop bath and fixer. The photos have to be accompanied with full attention through the process, according to photography teacher Lori Lynn.

“I like that I have to concentrate on one thing. That I have to spend my time nurturing this one little piece of paper and not being distracted by all kinds of other things that could be going on,” Lynn said.

The process needs to be timed, and the chemicals need to be agitated constantly.

“The slowness of it can’t be changed, and I like that about it, that it’s something that can’t be rushed and that if you’re willing to take the time, there’s a really great reward to it,” Lynn said.

Sophomore Sophie Bodine said that making prints in the room seemed daunting because of how dark it is.

I was at first a little bit scared of walking into something, or if I touched something I wasn’t supposed to. In the beginning, making pictures in there seemed like a really daunting task, but as the term went on, it just became something I could do and everybody in the class could,” Bodine said.

Now, Bodine said that she can make two to three prints in a class period. She expressed how amazing it feels when you create something you are proud of.

“You don’t really know once you take the picture how it’s going to turn out. So it’s really uncertain, but when it does turn out, you can own it, like I made that photo, so it feels really good,” Bodine said.

Lynn expressed that there is a moment for every student where it clicks, and they get a print to look exactly how they want it to look. Multiple trials and errors are necessary, and that is the only way to get better.

Lynn gained a lot of insight about the power and magic of the darkroom from talking to Germany-based photographer and art teacher Loredana Nemes. Nemes prints exclusively in the darkroom.

“Even though she could print it digitally, for her it’s important that everything is made by hand in the darkroom,” Lynn recalled. “She said that’s because when you make something in the darkroom it becomes holy, it becomes more important, because you put in the time, you crafted it with your own hands, and there’s something about that that’s special and unique.”