Friday, June 04, 2010

Not Final

The darkroom is not pitch black. After you've been in there for a while, you feel like you are seeing everything and it's almost hard to believe that you can take your photo paper out, change the filter in the enlarger, slide the paper in, press the button for the timer and not have the whole paper go dark in the developer tray as a result of what seems like all that light. 

The last two nights I've been in there at the very end, tonight my last print dried at 9:32, and the darkroom closes at 9:30. After everyone is out of the last tray of chemistry and into the first wash, time set for five minutes in your head, and all your black plastic sleeves of photo paper are shut up tight in boxes or envelopes, they turn on the lights in the darkroom, and it's a surprise what light looks like. 

Plenty of things are still black, but other things are yellow, lots of things in there, it seems, are yellow. Red too. It's a shock, really, when you see them turn the lights on. You can understand how it all seems black, but isn't. 

In the real darkroom, the film closet, I always catch myself closing my eyes. It is pitch black in there. A little closet, with black walls, a black wastebasket, a pair of orange handled scissors tethered to a waist high counter and an ordinary can opener tethered there too. The can openers are for prying the lids off your film canisters, and the only one that really makes it easy, for some reason, is the one in closet three. It's also the only one that isn't tethered to it's counter, so I'm always tempted to steal it. The rooms get warm and a little claustrophobic though, so doing anything to make anyone else at all cranky just doesn't seem like a good idea. Mostly, I leave the good can opener where it is. I've been told that the door to film closet three comes open even when you think you've got it closed, and I have had enough film accidents for one quarter, so I don't use closet three even though it's can opener is the best.

What is it about closing your eyes in the dark that makes prying those little lids off seem so much easier? 


P.Shaw said...

love these ruminations. remind me of my days gone by:

My last year in art school I was a Cage Rat, the darkroom monitor, the guy I made fun of my first year.

The shittiest part of the job was getting everyone out by 9:30 p.m.. No one wants to leave. They are either lulled into a deep, and to be truly admired, meditation as they seek the perfect print from a well-developed negative OR they are scurrying to make a silk-purse out of their crappy under-exposed negative for an assignment due first thing the next morning.

By that point in my learning my exposures were well calculated, and the development of my negatives spot on and therefore yielding easy results, easy printing – if even my image composition/subject matter/etc. was not a thing of interest. So, I had little patience for the above latter, and conversely envy for the above former. Neither of which made my end of evening duties easy or fun. Creative Solutions were necessary to keep my guilt and disdain to a minimum.

I had access to a intercom system that would override the subdued piped in music to all darkrooms and studios. The same intercom every Rat would use to do the customary: " The studio and darkrooms will be closing in 15, 10, 5 minutes so please finish up your work and proceed to turning in all school equipment to the cage," announcements that really never worked.

Options like bartenders use at 2 a.m. of switching on the lights and screaming, "Get the hell out!" would have only lead to ruining someone's work and while I was a bitter Rat, I wasn't that mean.

Instead, I brought in a busted up turntable I found in the alley behind the old Cyclops Cafe on Western, and a just as busted up 1968 original vinyl release of Iron Butterly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, of which the eponymous song took up the entire B side of the album.

At 9:10 p.m., every night, Monday through Friday, I would drop the needle and blast the arguable masterpiece's (not to be argued by me, exactly, as it simply suited my purposes) full 17 minute 27 seconds of scratchy tunage. My first foray in admitting to my own passive-agressive tendencies.

At the time though... I did truly believe I was being thoughtful.

Heather said...

Love that story Philip!