Saturday, October 8, 2016

Love Letter to my high school darkroom

I was holding my camera. It's a 10 year old canon digital camera, nothing special, not one of those dslr things. Just the run of the mill this is what I have. It has a nice heft to it, though, like a good 35 mm would, and it brought me back to another camera I owned, my father's, that I used throughout my senior year of high school in a photojournalism class. My dad had a set of macro lenses and I used them to take a picture of the laces of my converse all-star lace up high tops, back when they came in black, cream, and red. I had a pair of black and a pair of red. Back when no one wore them. But after the point when basketball players wore them. I placed 3rd in a regional school competition in photography with that picture. Nothing awesome but that was fun.

And I was in this photojournalism class, with this camera with quirks--you couldn't use the timer anymore, for instance. You had to load film just-so. But it worked and I learned how to take a photo. I like taking things with quirks and making them sing; finding semi-broken things that are still usable and using them for their best purpose.

I'm sitting in that darkroom in 1991, transferring film from my camera to the canisters where it will develop. Fumbling in darkness, hoping I don't drop anything necessary on the floor where I'll never find it. And then after developing it, going out into the bright classroom and using the little black machine to roll another canister of film off the bulk roll Mr. Sarver kept in a black bag.

I realized that more than cell phones vs. land lines, more than microwave ovens, more than the internet, actually, that this is the difference for me, the difference between me and now. My kids will never roll film or develop photos in a dark room, sitting on those metal stools that are never balanced right, chatting with John or trying not to chat with Heather, hoping we didn't expose anything, being trusted to do this task. They'll never take that film canister and take pictures at some ultra-boring sports banquet or NHS induction.

We don't have to make our own butter or know how to butcher pigs, either, and this isn't an "oh, these kids today don't understand" kind of thing I'm going for.

I just realized, looking down at my digital camera, that this is my version of my father's tooling around with a British sports car. I know how to do this thing that I never need to know how to do anymore--and when I learned it, I totally thought it would always be a thing. I was glad to learn it, glad to have this skill. My grandfather on my dad's side had a darkroom and I liked that I had a skill that was something from my family.

Now it's just a relic. Like most relics, I don't need it, but I'm happy I have it.

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