Visual Journal Page 28: A Tribute to Polaroids and Dark Rooms

One of my favorite courses in college was photography. I loved it so much because I learned how a camera and dark room work. I never knew how much you could control the image through the development process until I went through it myself.

I remember one photograph I took, it was a half dilapidated building with the sunlight shining between a pile of wooden slats. I was happy with the image, but because the sun was shining right into the camera lens, the sky was very washed out. I showed my teacher, thinking there was nothing more I could do, but she told me to go back and as I enlarge the image wave my hand over the sky to help pull out the gray tones. I thought there was no way, the camera couldn’t capture that information because the sun was too bright. However, low and behold once I followed her advice, the sky and clouds began to appear.

I was so impressed that the camera was able to capture all of that information, yet it was still up to me to find a way to bring it out. It made me appreciate photography  more as an art form, I felt like my hand and touch was in every photograph even though it was captured using a camera.

This visual journal page is a dedication to the “old” way of photography (even though it’s not that old, I’m only 25…). What first sparked this page was when I heard that polaroid film was no longer going to be manufactured. That broke my heart just a little bit. Polaroids have such a magical, immediately retro quality. I love the coloration, the tab at the bottom to write a caption… Shortly after hearing that disappointing news I was talking to a professor who told me an art college in California was shutting down their dark room, since everything is going digital. I couldn’t believe my ears. How can photography students go through photography school without understanding how film is developed? How can they appreciate what a camera does without seeing it for themselves? It’s sad to think that someone will miss out on the epiphany I had in that tiny dark room, with that spooky red glow, and the smell of chemicals swirling around me.

I am dying to teach photography, to have the chance to show students how amazing a camera is, and how amazing it feels to see the image slowly develop in the vats of chemicals. I remember dropping my pictures in the developer, hovering over it, waiting to see the image appear. Nothing is more satisfying and exciting than seeing the grays and blacks beginning to transition into a photograph. One day when I get my dark room up and running I will try my hardest to always have it going. Yes, I will teach digital photography, it is where photography is today, you can do amazing things with it. But you have to look to the past in order to move forward in the future.

This visual journal page was inspired by the image of the girl with the Polaroid, I found it in a magazine and decided I needed to make a page about photography. I kept an eye open for something to go with it, it didn’t look complete with just the Polaroid image. Finally I came across the red spiral. The red and black reminded me of the way images look in the dark room, with the red safe light on. I loved the random images, it tied in with the idea of a Polaroid picture, a spontaneous moment, person, or thing. I carefully cut out the spiral, glued the Polaroid image down, and glued the spiral on top. Since photographs often focus on images rather than words, I decided to leave this without words, as a tribute to photography.

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