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Friday, 09 February 2024


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"What's old is new to the young..."

I saw a video where someone brought in a bunch of teens and asked them to make a call from a rotary phone. They looked at it like a dog would look at a clock... absolutely lost.

I'd love to see you trying to explain the simple aspects of darkroom work to kids that never didn't have a camera in their pockets. Those teens above trying to figure out a landline phone might have competition as a demonstration of the generation gap.

You might also be able to scratch your teaching itch if there is any local school or club offering photography courses, and that might accept a part-timer. Here in Maryland, the Maryland Institute College of the Arts (MICA) still offers a full curriculum, including film, darkroom and digital classes. I’ve donated used equipment to them, and they’ve been thrilled to put it to good use.

Long, long ago, in a former life during high school while working at the local weekly newspaper, a new publisher came in. Soon, I learned to make a silk purse from a sow's ear on a weekly basis when he or his family picked up a camera. That experience taught me well.

Later, I learned a few of W. Eugene Smith's tricks with cigarette wrappers, bleach on a swab and hot Dektol.

Today, now that everry body with a cell phone has become a "photographer", those skills do me well and keep my 83 year old cringing publisher happy. Those skills learned from a long time ago come in hand. But now it takes just a few minutes rather than a half-hour or more to make that purse.

No doubt the first print coming up in the developer was magical. But I bet your students had context. They knew, at a very pop-culture level, what was going to happen. It makes the result even more magical, I am sure.

I was watching a TV show last night, which, while filmed in the digital era, was set in the 1950s. One of the characters was a photographer, and an early exposition scene showed them finishing up some prints in their darkroom. The show made no effort to explain what was going on. It kind of took as read that we all know what a darkroom looks like (red light, hanging prints), and instead it was mostly atmospheric to establish what subjects this photographer cared about.

I wonder if someone who grew up in the digital age has the same seamless experience of such a scene as I do. Maybe they don't even need to -- a photo appearing in the developer tank is still a photo, even if you've never heard of the process.

Oh yeah. My wife's nephew, in his 40s now, did not know what those orange strips of plastic were in the photos he got back from labs. He had no idea what negatives were or what you could do with them. He would literally throw them away, and would need to get his prints scanned to produce dupes.

I'm pretty sure, but can't prove, that most people don't know that water flows downhill in rivers.

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