I cut my photographic teeth in the days of film. Some people never had the privilege of loading a camera with a roll of film let alone watching a print slowly develop in a darkroom tray or smell the unique smell of developer or fixer baths. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the darkroom from loading a tank with film to develop it, to making the contact sheets, to enlarging prints, and even dodging and burning. I have fond memories of time spent in the darkroom.
Now, things have changed. Film is almost a thing of the past. Oh, I know some people still prefer film but they are in the minority. Polaroid stopped making their instant film and even Kodak has cut their production in making rolls of film. The digital age has arrived in full force and is here to stay. It is time to come out of the darkroom.
Many of the procedures we used to perform in the darkroom can now be performed in the full light of day. A compact flash card can be “developed” by sticking it into a card reader and transferred to a computer hard drive. Enlargements can be made without worrying about light ruining the process. And dodging and burning can still be utilized but now in the light. The details of the process have changed but there are many similarities.
I do miss the darkroom sometimes myself. I miss the mystery of watching and waiting for an image to appear on an 8″ x 10″ piece of paper. I miss the sights and smells of the darkroom. I even sometimes miss the trying task of loading a developing tank with a roll of film!
I now work almost entirely with digital images and I enjoy this process, too. It may be different but it still presents some of the same challenges that we had with film. I have come out of the darkroom and into the light. I still have many good memories of the darkroom, but I am quite happy with this new process. And now I don’t have to worry about a family member opening the darkroom door at an inopportune time!