Thursday, 1 May 2008

Memories...

The smell of light rain on a dusty road takes me straight back to primary school. It's the smell of the school playground. The smell of two stroke fuel reminds me of mowing grass, the smell of freshly mown grass reminds me of the lawn at my grandparents place and the scary old lawnmower with the blades that extended beyond the edge of the cover by about 2 inches.

Last night at school we did our first darkroom exercise and developed a roll of film. The smell of the chemicals in the dark reminded me strongly of all the time I spent with dad in the darkroom as a child...

Dad used to do the photofinish images for horse/dog racing all around the western half of Victoria. As soon as I was old enough to look after myself for some of the time I went with him.

I would help him set up the gear and make sure everything was in alignment and watch with fascination as the images came out on paper. I used to watch the races from the top of the tower with him and prided myself in successfully guessing which horse was the winner before the print confirmed it.

The darkroom is one, very large, reason why I chose the course that I am doing yet my new instructor was a little dismissive of it last night. "I have to teach you this because it's part of the course but it is going the way of the dinosaurs - digital is where it's at"... He may be (is) right, to a degree, but the processes learned in the darkroom for creating a print are very similar if not exactly the same as doing it all digitally. I think he missed my point a little though... How strong is the memory of working with my dad in the darkroom, how much do I want to do it and do it well? How much do I want that connection?

It's why I chose this course!

The smell of the darkroom chemicals are toxic, they aren't that pleasant (in fact they stink), the process is slow, exacting, technical and takes lots of practice to get even close to right. But all of this reminds me of some great times spent with my father and all of the stories I can tell about the characters I met in the country racing industry at the time.

Memories...

3 comments:

Craig Peihopa said...

Great memories, and if others are dismissive of the darkroom you could well become a specialist. I have a friend in Sydney that is now specialising in darkroom black and white and what started as a small passion has now become a lucrative sideline with many other photographers and companies utilising her photographic services. There is a demand!

Luhlahh said...

I'm teaching photography to year 10s (15-16 year olds) and there is something about the discipline and the mystery of the darkroom that is spellbinding... I love using photoshop and digital for it's convenience, but it doesn't give you that other-wordly experience of working in the dark and under the red safe-lights...
Did I mention that my Dad was a photographer? he used to do weddings and portraits as a side business... I have some of those childhood associations too...

one little acorn said...

And the things you learned then as an impressionable young boy have stayed with you to this day.

Forgetting the onset of digital technology, the technique and intrigue of the dark room, THAT for you is what it is about. The importance of that can't be denied. It is the magic process of photography at it's roots.

Besides, learn all that, and the digital side all makes sense! It's exactly what photoshop does, but here you get a more tactile connection.