Fading art form: Darkroom photography not just for old people anymore
If you’ve ever attempted to develop your own film, you know there’s a million and one disasters lurking in the pitch-blackness that is the darkroom.
You can’t get the film canister open. You cut your hand with the can opener while trying. You scissor through the middle your best shot because it’s too close to the end of the roll. Your film falls on the floor and you can’t find it. You can’t get the film to catch on the reel. When you finally do, you mess up and it sticks to itself. Some lout opens the door to the darkroom and everything is ruined. Ruined!
Even if all of those steps do go perfectly, there’s no guarantee you even exposed any of your photos correctly to start with (no “preview” button in film photography).
It’s not hard to see why most have abandoned all the fumbling, uncertainty and messy chemicals of darkroom photography for digital. That makes it a novelty to see honest-to-goodness, handmade black and white prints.
While reporting Sunday’s Pulse cover story, I was surprised to learn that at least at the Lawrence Arts Center, the biggest fans of the darkroom seem to be teens. I got to hang out with them for a while under the redlight and loved seeing what they came up with on their photo shoots around downtown Lawrence.
There was only space in the paper for one student shot, but instructor Ann Dean kindly emailed me extra photos so I could share them here. Instagram has nothing on these kids.