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The Red Escape

Apr 12th 2010: Thoughts

(continuation from On a Roll)

Going to boarding school has clear advantages and disadvantages. On one side you are surrounded 24/7 by all the people you love, your best friends, you hang out, have fun, and you get to know everything about them. On the other side you are also surrounded 24/7 by all the people you dislike, or even hate, and you get to know everything about them, too. In my case the number of kids I disliked far outweighed the number of my friends. There is obvious value in growing a thick skin and learning to dealing with the unpleasant individuals in your life. I know that now. But as a child you don’t see it that way and so, throughout the years, you come up with creative ways to cope with those constant, forced interactions and the related stress. In 8th and 9th grade the darkroom was my escape. As head of the photo club I had full access to the school’s photo lab and so every Sunday morning I would get up, eat brunch in the cafeteria, and then disappear for several hours. Engulfed in dark red light, focused on the rather mechanical task of making small, 5×7 prints, with the radio playing soothingly in the background, all by myself for once, I was able to catch a break and just let go for a while.

Many things have changed over the years, but the darkroom has continued to be that very private and meditative escape. When you are there, the rest of world seizes to exist. In the red light you can barely see your current surroundings and all you are really left with are your photos, your music, and your thoughts. There is no rushing anything in there. The paper takes 1.5 minutes in the developer, 30 seconds in the stop bath, and 2 minutes in the fixer. And you cannot turn on the white light until it is in the fixer. So if you want to know if the print turned out the way you wanted to, and you do want to know, all you can do is wait in the dark and let your thoughts wander while the silver emulsion gradually changes.

As mentioned last week, I have been feeling a little stuck with the progress of my work.
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