Tonight, I received the second half of my Christmas present: a lesson in developing black and white film! The first half was my grandpa’s Nikon F 35 mm camera, which he ordered special from Japan in 1959. Back then, it was a professional-level camera; today, it’s my tangible art and science experiment in a digital photography world. I’ve always wanted to learn the chemical details of film photography, and there is no one better to teach the subject than my daddy.
Dad started his photography career in 8th grade. After seeing a relative’s darkroom, Dad went home and constructed his own with soup cans and black tarps. He learned the chemical processes and the techniques, skills that he’s honed all the way to tonight’s laundry room developing session.
Some of my earliest memories are saturated with the heavy scent of developer, stop bath and fixer, though I only knew them as “daddy’s-developing-pictures-don’t-disturb-him-or-turn-on-any-lights.” In the Shelton house, he cordoned off a section of the basement with thick black plastic walls. Inside, the developing tank and chemicals stood tall in the darkness, ready for the super-special-secret magic to happen.
The magic prevails, and I got a chance to make it with my own hands (well, at least assisting.) I still don’t quite understand the sodium carbonate and silver process, so the magic of chemistry will always be there! And that magic, begun in the 1700s, is worth the effort and expense, even in a digital world. Watching the magic happen, step by step, is addicting. Stay tuned to see the prints (the ones that aren’t under- or overexposed )