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Thread: Traditional Darkroom

  1. #1

    Traditional Darkroom

    This is not so much a question as it is an observation, and it is not intended to spark another debate about digital vs traditional. I believe there is a place for both and the artist uses the tools they find the most appropriate.
    That said: I am a traditional darkroom person and after spending all day(8+ hrs) working up a 16x20 I was relaxing when it struck me how satisfying the whole experience was. When i say whole I mean "whole in the philosophical sense" . Its not just the final product but the entire prosess to reach that end: from arcane chemistry to the dexterity needed to bleach back wet, floppy piece of 16x20 paper without ruining it(knowing intuitively when enough is enough). I forgot to include the entirely satisfying field trip to get the negative etc.
    I found that I had no concept of time, forgot entirely about politics, my wife and the dog. In other words a Zen type experience. I am sure that the digital folks get as involved with their process just doing different things. Any comments?

  2. #2

    Traditional Darkroom

    The Zen comment caught me first. I read that, then went back to read the rest. So true. So true.

    Because of my job, I have to do digital and because of the Zeness of film, I do traditional. I combine them artistically--film to digital-- for for reasons I've never been able to explain, except that I don't like to make a picture of a beautiful environmental scene, then flush chemstry through it.

    The Zen factor is there for both. It's just photography no matter how we get there.
    "I meant what I said, not what you heard"--Jflavell

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Traditional Darkroom

    I think the traditional darkroom aspect caught me most. This is my usual work flow, although I have absolutely no objectively about my own work and will ache for days bent double over a 20x20" tray just trying to attain the perfect print (fools gold, huh?). It made me think that you too were concentrating so hard on your work that it was fulfilling to attain a clearer expression of your work that the thought of family and dog got poured out with the fixer and nothing else but darkroom! darkroom! stuck.

    There's nothing 'whole' about gaping out, or dissociating from life outside of the darkroom. Digital darkroom users also gap out. They do it all the time on their computer screens. Tele-addicts do it when then fail to hear the calls for dinner over the football match. Dissociating and gaping out is a part of consciousness. Not necessarily Zen or even Zen-like.

    I'm doing it at the moment so I'm just going to leave abruptly.

  4. #4
    austin granger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Portland, Oregon

    Traditional Darkroom

    Years ago someone gave me a poster of Some Zen Buddhist monks meditating. It's pinned up on my darkroom door.

    For me, going into my darkroom is not an attempt to escape the outside world but is instead an effort to carry the focused attention that was required in first exposing a negative through the actions required to print that negative well. (boy, that was one convoluted sentence-whew!)

    My point is that I've come to see photography as a spiritual pursuit (a meditation if you like) in so much that it requires concentrated attention. As Henry Miller once wrote: "The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware."

    The trick is to try and bring the awareness we utilize in our photography to every aspect of our lives. That's the difficult bit, isn't it?

    And with that I'm off to the darkroom to battle the dreaded newton ring demons (see recent post) Ha!

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Traditional Darkroom

    Just a few days ago I maddled together a small and impractical wet darkroom in a sinkless cubicle inside a garage. I printed out a few contact sheets from a recent trip and boy I didn't realise just how much I missed the darkroom! Even though many things went wrong and no masterpieces came out of the session I went out the next day and bought a bunch more paper and chemicals for future sessions.

    It is so relaxing and peaceful, the radio softly playing in the background, the warm glow from the safelight and the quiet hum from the enlarger when its on and the splish splash from the developer etc...mmmmmmm!!!!

    CP Goerz

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Dec 1997
    Baraboo, Wisconsin

    Traditional Darkroom

    Forgetting your wife and politics I can understand but how could you forget your dog?
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Aug 2004

    Traditional Darkroom

    Roland Barthes wrote once on an essay:
    "photography reproduces chemistry and mechanically everything that cannot be reproduced existentially"
    To photograph and, as well, deal with image creation processes is part of an ontological
    course for those who are completelly involved with photography.

  8. #8

    Traditional Darkroom

    I have dabbled off and on with photography and darkroom work since 1969 and find it to be the same sort of "craft" as woodworking, weaving, and many others. It requires enough of your attention as to not get boring but not so much as to be exhausting or to exclude from your attention that which is going on around you. There is a "product", the quality of which is related to your skill (and a fair degree of luck!), a product that gives a feeling of accomplishment.

    Now, how to make a light-tight doggie door for the darkroom.......

  9. #9

    Traditional Darkroom

    To me, darkroom work feels like "craft", while computer-aided imaging feels like "engineering".

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Mobile, AL

    Traditional Darkroom

    As an accountant by trade, I sit in front of a computer monitor for 8-10 hours a day. My photography is what relaxes and destresses me. I certainly don't want to go home and sit in front of another computer and print my photos. The wet darkroom for me is the only way to go. I can certainly relate to spending hours working on prints. The satisfaction I get after a night of printing is truly rewarding. Like Robert Duval said in Apocaypse Now, "There is nothing better than the smell of Napalm in the morning", I say, "There is nothing better than the smell of fixer at night".

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