Out of the Dark Room

The first photo I ever printed in a darkroom was at summer camp in the 7th grade. The photo was of a girl  pouring a bucket of water over another girl’s head. Hilarious, right? (Remember 7th grade humor?)

My career as a comedienne ceased abruptly, but I would return to photography as my passion and art form. In college I studied in France and returned with eight boxes of slides. Remember slides? Eight rolls doesn’t seem like much for six months nowadays, but they were enough to hook me for life.

In my ‘20’s when I had children, I knew I wanted to take good pictures of them. Serendipity struck when my husband bought a used Nikkormat (another historical reference) from a friend. Just at the time when I needed to learn what an f-stop was, I won a raffle at a local arts center. The prize was a photography course.

I was in love. The teacher held class at her house, which was full of pillows and padded sculptures covered in fabric that had been silk screened with black and white photos. It had never occurred to me that photography was an art.

I took every course my community college offered. I learned how to lock myself in my closet at home so I could take exposed film out of the camera and load it into a developing tank. I studied the masters, determined to become one.

I had a darkroom in each house. When the kids were little, I set an enlarger up in the garage or the laundry room at night. When we moved to a house with a basement, I could leave everything in place. The family got used to my disappearing down the stairs to do magic with only an amber light on.

Maybe what finally drove me to rent a studio was my habit of leaving bottles of developing solution on the kitchen counter next to the olive oil. It became evident that I needed some separation between my growing profession and my personal life.

In this blog I’m going to share some of the things that developed in my darkrooms and in others I set up in schools, in my studio, and in my head, where I processed images from my active imagination. Images, I found, had power. And I had power to create them. Which meant I had power to see things…through a different lens.

That was the adventure. And it still is. I want to share with you what seeing differently has meant to me and to those I’ve worked with—and how photography led me into healing work and eventually on to the shamanic path. It’s really about creativity, and how that part of us is hooked up to the Exit sign in those dark rooms we inhabit sometimes. Creativity can get us out—into the light.

Stay tuned.

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