I am always fascinated by black and white photography. The simplicity of color yet provokes the imagination of what scenery looks and feels. I cannot deny my mother’s influence. In our living room, wherever we move to, she always hangs two black and white photographs on the wall. I am always fascinated by black and white photography. The simplicity of color yet provokes the imagination of what scenery looks and feels. I cannot deny my mother’s influence. In our living room, wherever we move to, she always hangs two black and white photographs on the wall. These photographs are taken by Ansel Adams. Very detailed, slow-shatter speed, high contrast photographs show the beauty of nature.
In our world lives in, we prioritize speed. How quickly we can get to the goal, or achieve the results, find the fastest way to be successful… This semester, one of my favorite courses I am taking is the Darkroom photography course. The process of developing film photography in the darkroom teaches me how slow and delicate the process will assist in making the best result.
To see what you take in a film camera, start with developing the film roll to the negatives. Usually, the process takes 20-30 minutes. It required constant agitating with chemicals, almost like soothing the baby. The delicateness and slow porcess make a magic.
There is one time, when I tried to develop the negatives by class time, I rushed the process and destroyed them… If negatives don’t develop well, all data turned out all black and will not restore the image. Also, it is impossible to recreate the moment you snap a photo. It gives you not only the sallow but the sense of loss. Same as human memories. We forget and lose someone, something, or some events in our life if we do not imprint them in our brains or recall them. These memories will vanish in the dark.
After finishing making negatives, it’s time to make the prints. In the darkroom, use an enlarger to light up one negative on a printing paper. It requires experimenting with the duration of exposure time to get the preferred tone of color. The longer exposure to the light, the darker the color gets. Similar to human skin.
After lighting up the negative on the paper, the print goes through 3 chemicals; developers, stop-bath, and fix. Sink it in each chemical tray for a couple of minutes with constant agitation. Finally, after all the processes, you are out of the darkroom and able to see the result.
The pictures above are the moments from my rehearsal. I documented when dancers talked about their stories about their memorable objects. Looking at the prints, no matter how much movement inside the frame, they exist at the exact moment when I snap the camera. It’s almost like the camera froze the time. The sense of time is totally different in film photography compared to photos on the digital camera or on the phone. I see this difference as the magic of being analog. This analog technology makes time tangible. It is interesting how humans create film photography to capture the fragment of time. We have a desire to conserve the time slipping through us. And for me, using analog technology such as film photography gives me an opportunity to re-think the definition of time and understand the meaning of documentation. Going through all the processes with many hours to print one frame of negative is more meaningful than an instant snap by the phone.