Dark(room) discoveries

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Today I spent exploring the offices of the SAU Bray, the student newspaper recently made mine by the president of our University. I finally got my key to the suite, and took my time cleaning out, organizing and exploring all the hidden little corners and niches of the once and former newsroom of SAU. (It is a storied publication, by the way, the institutional knowledge of which I am slowly accumulating by talking to folks familiar with its history AND by reading a thick file I just inherited from a previous sponsor.)

The Bray exists only online now, although mention was made of bringing back the old print version. We’re not anywhere CLOSE to making that kind of a decision yet; hell, we haven’t even posted anything to our Web site, which is the sole home of our newspaper. I’ll meet next week with the staff and editor and take baby steps toward making students more aware of our product. I think it’s going to be fun, and I am inspired and excited about taking the job.

My understanding is that a previous sponsor purchased a great deal of photographic equipment (i.e. cameras) last semester, and I am anxious to find those items and bring them back into the fold (rumor has it they are in the temporary possession of the Sports Information Department). Today I test-drove the Nikon Cool Pix camera I found, but unfortunately, the battery charger wasn’t with the camera and the power pack has since died. I’ll have to work on that little re-charging project, as well.

Otherwise, the office is a blank slate, and so is the web site. I’m so excited to see what’s going to happen I can hardly wait.

I was extremely excited to find a fully-functioning dark room, just waiting for someone’s use. I kid; no one will ever use that lab again. But I had a great deal of fun exploring it and examining all the familiar old tools, timers and machines we once used to produce images for a newspaper. I was transported back to my Hope Star days in the late Eighties, early 90s, when we’d fight light leaks in the walls and doors and have long, serious, digressive discussions while waiting on the film to “soup.” (Tim, our “lab rat,” wore a denim apron that became the symbol of his profession.) I recalled the lightproof “Star Trek” door to our camera rooms at the Daily Siftings Herald in Arkadelphia. I remember filling in for our full-time guys, sweating the chemicals, running prints through baths and rinses, wearing protective rubber gloves and aprons, handling everything with tongs, using magnifiers to examine dot gain or loss … it was a science, and so different than what I was hired to do, which was write stories. I loved it, but lab work wasn’t for me. I had more fun watching the pros.

I was aware, of course, of the irony of using my Nikon DSLR to photograph this old wet lab. Today I “souped up” my images digitally in a matter of seconds, and I daresay they are sharper and clearer than pictures a lab would have produced. But I needed the reminder that pictures were once developed first by hands, then by actual machines, and were much more a physical labor of love than they are today. Also, I am reminded of how much work the digital format has lifted from our hands, and for that, I am grateful. I can process pictures of my own and move on with my life – and work – in record time, without having to spend half the afternoon in the dark. There are trade-offs everywhere, none exemplified better than in the world of digital vs. film photography.

Photographic thermometer and film spool

Photographic thermometer and film spool

Slide and canister parts

Slide and canister parts

Enlarger timer and film container

Enlarger timer and film mag





2 thoughts on “Dark(room) discoveries

  1. I unearthed a darkroom just like this in 2007 at ECU in Ada, Okla., when I subbed for their photography teacher, who quit at the last minute. He’d been keeping film alive, but I killed it for good that summer. I still have times and temperatures for souping film in my head.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was all part of the era when journalism was more of a science than merely an exercise in graphic design. Darkroom techs had to know times and temperatures; paste-up artists had to know measurements; reporters had to know Associated Press style; editors had to be able to count in picas; publishers had to know how to order replacement press parts. All that knowledge is now obsolete.

    Liked by 1 person

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