This is an essay I wrote in my first year of college about my first experiences with photography. For those interested in a bit of my past and how I got started in photography!
When I finally settled into what became my graduating high school, classes were not my first concern. Half my high school career was spent trying to find a school I was merely content with; my attentions were not in determining what, exactly, it was I wanted to do with my life. Just finding a school, transferring in and trying to fit in was enough to occupy my mind during the first few months of junior year. Classes had been selected for me which, in high school, is not unusual. My schedule included all required classes that I would need to graduate. Among them, my second and final art credit requirement had been fulfilled: I was to take photography.
My photography classes went much like my other courses; I was attempting to get to know my peers and get a feel for each of my teachers and what I should expect of them and their classes. My photography teacher, Mr. Holmes, paid no real attention to me. I was the quiet kid in class and he was one of those energetic teachers who are fueled by matching energy and constant feedback from their students in the hope of instilling their same passion for a subject. For Mr. Holmes, this was subject was art.
Before lessons involving the use of a darkroom, our first assignment was to take a series of Polaroid pictures capturing three nouns: motion, abundance, and the third was anything of our choosing. When we later brought these three pictures to class, the plan was to display and discuss them. When our assignment was due, Mr. Holmes told us to tape our polaroids up on the wall for display. He also told us that we would, finally, be learning how to develop a photo in the darkroom right before we reviewed the polaroids of our first assignment.
The class filed into our tiny school darkroom, arranging themselves graciously in terms of height so that all would be able to observe the procedure. Mr. Holmes explained the process of projecting a tiny image from a negative onto a light sensitive piece of paper. The blacker parts of the negative will be lighter, and the whiter parts darker because of how much light exposes the paper. The developer is a chemical which then reacts to the parts of the paper that have met with light. These chemicals are almost like tiny particles that stick to the paper in shades of black and gray. I will always remember the first time I witnessed the gradual fade-in of an image on photographic paper steeped in developer. It is a sight to be seen, especially if, like me, you had no idea of how a photograph came to be, well, a photograph! After a couple of minutes in the developer, the developing process must be stopped so that the desired contrast will remain without further darkening. The stop bath is quick, it only takes about thirty seconds to stop the developing process, after which the photo must be “fixed” and made light safe in a chemical rightfully called fixer. After a brief dip in the fixer remover and a final water rinse to remove any left over chemicals, the photo is ready to dry and display.
After the first time I saw the production of an image in the darkroom, things changed rapidly for me in the field of photography. Once he had briefly gone through directions in creating our own photographic images in the darkroom, Mr. Holmes had each student share their polaroids. We each took the time to comment on our own pieces and on others. At the end of class, Mr. Holmes asked me to stay after class for a moment. He told me that my polaroids were exceptional and that he was looking forward to see what else I produced that year in his class. I was surprised, needless to say, but proud nonetheless. Since that class, I have produced many photographs and gone over and over again the developing process in attempts to perfect the technicalities of photography. I now understand and practice photography as an art form, and hope it always remains a major part of my life.