Monday, September 20, 2010


I spent the weekend in the darkroom developing the old negatives from my dad's house. I explained the development process in this post.

When I have arrived at the perfect exposure setting and time, I can run several pictures rather quickly. The minutes-in-solution times can be synchronized so I'm moving the photographs through in production. It's easy to get caught up in running several because I'm so pleased to be producing the actual picture.

At home, I will have anywhere from five to seven prints of a photograph. Then the question becomes, "What do I do with all the prints?" This has led me to examine why we take pictures in the first place.

1. We want to remember an event: who was there, what the venue looked like, what the activities were.
2. We want to document something, for instance a house we are building for a client.
3. We want to measure a life through the years.
4. We want to capture something beautiful, grotesque, intriguing.

And other reasons.

In developing these old negatives, I have other motivation.

Mostly I want to see emotion in people's faces. There is an interaction between the photographer and the subject. I've seen the happiness and irritation of my subjects many times. In a picture of my mom and dad, both of them impeccably dressed (Easter?), she is smiling broadly, he is not. What does this tell me about them? Is it something about their whole relationship or was it just a second of their life? Who took the picture? In an oddly parallel photo, my brother and sister are in dress-up clothes. She has on high heels and he is a cowboy with a play guitar. She is smiling broadly; he is straight-faced.

There we are on the steps of our house; why is my next-to-the-youngest sister not in the photo? In another photo I look about four years old and I stand apart from my sister as she sits in a rocking chair holding my infant brother, my mother protectively close at hand. I look straight at the camera. What am I thinking?

Pictures are chronicles not just of our lives, but our relationships, interests, happy and sad events. I'm fascinated by what I'm discovering in a dark room.

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