Wednesday, January 10, 2007

dis-ease # 3 and a comment about "soup"


Winter is trying to make an appearance, lame though it might be. There's nothing of consequence in the forecast.

You may have noticed that my last few posts have had Polaroid photographs attached. The reason for this is simple - in my fevered state to taste a new flavor I hauled out the Polaroid SLRs, purchased some film, and started to photograph. Much to my surprise, I discovered how much I had forgotten about, a) the good old days of analog photography, and b) the magic and addiction of Polaroid photography.

Now I am well aware of the dangers of advancing decrepitude. I try like hell not to use phrases like, "...back when I was a (insert a younger age)..." or "...barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways..." and so on....but....back when I was a photo rookie, I processed and printed the very first roll of film I ever used. Film processing seemed rather mechanical and uninsipiring, after all, everything happened in complete darkness or in the can. You got the developer to temperature, watched the clock (timer) and agitated on schedule. Ho hum. Important for sure, but still, ho hum.

Then came the fun part - making a print and those moments of magic watching the image appear while the paper was in the soup. It really was like magic. First there was nothing on the paper, and then, ever so slowly, as if by magic, an image starts to appear - faint at first, but, as the paper sloshes around with more rocking of the developer tray, hot damn, a picture comes to life.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the digital domain that comes close to replicating that magic, nothing. If you haven't experienced it, you should. Go to whatever lengths you must, but do it. IMO, you really don't know the magic of photography until you do.

The only substitute photographic experience that I know of that, in a small way, replicates the magic of watching an image emerge in the soup is Polaroid photography. Press the shutter and out comes a print on which an image slowly emerges as it develops. Sure, you miss out on the joy inhaling noxious brain-deadening chemicals, but it's a bit of the old magic nevertheless.

This point was driven home recently when my 2 year old grandson, Hugo, who has his own 6mp digital camera (see some of his photos here), watched with a great deal of fascination as a Polaroid image slowly emerged on a print in his hands. He was very intrigued to, as he put it, "see what happens".

So, if you haven't done and can't do the wet darkroom thing, you really do owe it to yourself to pick up a Polaroid camera - used SLRs on ebay - and experience the magic of "seeing what happens". If you do, just beware of the Polaroid Addiction thing - once the Polaroid was fully developed, Hugo's next words were, "more, Papa".

Easy for him to say, since he's not shelling out a buck a pop.

FEATURED COMMENT: Mary Dennis wrote: "...you are so right about the magic of the wet darkroom. And not only because of the magic of watching an image emerge in the developer tray. When my two daughters where really little, about one and five years old, I built a little darkroom in the corner of our musty old basement and it became a cave, a quiet refuge for me when life got crazy. That was my magic place and it had a door that locked from the inside!! ..."

publisher's comment: Mary, you are so absolutely right about the cave/refuge aspect of the wet darkroom. Every darkroom that I ever had served exactly that kind of "refuge" function. Thanks very much for the vivid reminder. I'll be remodeling my home office/"studio" soon and somehow I need to incorporate the notion of "refuge".

3 Comments:

Anonymous mary dennis said...

Mark, you are so right about the magic of the wet darkroom. And not only because of the magic of watching an image emerge in the developer tray. When my two daughters where really little, about one and five years old, I built a little darkroom in the corner of our musty old basement and it became a cave, a quiet refuge for me when life got crazy. That was my magic place and it had a door that locked from the inside!! When the girls were safe under Daddy's wings or in bed I would run down to the basement, lock the door, put on some music, whip out the newest negatives and get to work. I miss the whole ambience actually and just the other day as I was digging through some old boxes I discovered some old trays, tongs and, what where they...graduated cylinders?? The smell was still there!! Nasty but full of nostalgia. There are days now when I find it so difficult to do photo work at the computer with so many distractions pulling me in so many directions. I need a den with a lock on the door I guess. But it really isn't the same is it?

1/10/2007 05:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Jim Jirka said...

This is exactly what I woke to this morning. A little dusting once the winds that have been beating us silly have subsided.

1/10/2007 06:25:00 PM  
Blogger Billie said...

I always thought of the darkroom as going back to the womb.

1/10/2007 10:22:00 PM  

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