Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dark magic

It used to be simple. Simple, but not easy. It used to be somewhat magical, too. I close my eyes, and once more I enter the dark room with a troubled heart and a mind full of the same old questions: "Did I nail the exposure? What if something has happened to my film? And ufff... the focus..." As the door shuts behind me, the familiar humid warmth welcomes me and tells me that I'm home again. Even the slightly stinging chemical smells feel like the sea breeze to a sailor returning to his beloved boat. I turn off all lights (but not the deep green one) and wait for a couple of minutes for my eyes to adjust. And when I start seeing the tips of my fingers as I wave them in front of my face, I think "...here we go..." and open the camera to remove the precious roll of film, one of only four that contain all the hard work that went into a full day of shooting. And I take extreme care when inserting the roll into the developing tank (we don't want nasty air bubbles in there, do we?), then I pour in the processing solutions, with an almost ritualistic precision and timing: developer first, waiting, then the stop bath and rinsing, then the fixer, more waiting, and finally the washing with a bit of non-ionic solution. It is now that my heart jumps the most... as I remove the film from the tank in full daylight and I hastily check each of the 36 frames. It's ok, I reassure myself: the developer did a good job, the pictures seem crisp and contrasting enough, but of course, I'll only have the final proof when I'll hold the photo - ON PAPER - in my hand. And yes, this is going to be the fun part. I leave the red light on this time, I prepare the processing baths, then I begin the painstakingly slow process of adjusting the exposure intensity, color filters and so on... When I emerge from the dark room after a few hours (how time flies!), I feel a bit tired and hungry, but satisfied as I glance once more at the string of photos drying on the rope....
Yep, it used to be just like that. Now, of course... things have changed. I look at the tiny SD card that contains my (roughly) 2000 pictures for the day, I transfer them to HDD with a few clicks, I fire up Photoshop and load one of them up, and with a few more clicks I get a better result then I could ever have hoped to get the "old school" way. And if I want a printed copy, that will take yet another couple of buttons pushed. And I think this is a good thing, because it's safer, easier and more accessible then ever before. It is all those things and more, only... it's not magical anymore.

Claudia Veja Images

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