Last week, I conducted my first test of a darkroom I built at the Arab American Association of New York. This is the first step towards creating a film photography community in Bay Ridge. The idea originated through a meeting with artist Anna Lise Jensen. With generous equipment donations by Brazilian photographer Ig Mata (thank you, Ig!) and paper donations by Rona Merrill (in association with CatLABS of JP), it's one step closer to fruition. Ultimately, we're trying to grow this community by running photography classes, printing classes and renting darkroom time. After a few hours of cleaning and preparing, I found a place for three enlargers, a tray system, the enlarging timer, filters and a healthy collection of books. With all that taken care of, it was time to print. I photographed the AAANY's staff in April and decided to print and gift the shot as a thank you for their huge role in this project.
The test was a success, despite multiple annoying moments. Since 2011, I've been in a darkroom once. I forgot how calm one must be when printing. Waiting for the test strips, minutes at a time, in a cramped, dark space, only to find out your exposure is nowhere near close is an exercise in patience. Being years out of practice did not help to curb my frustrations.
This is a drawn-out, sophisticated process that demands your full concentration and an otherworldly attention to detail for a successful session. Yet, holding the final print and closely examining its subtle gradation between white, black and gray is an experience like no other.
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The first print! 10s of light at f/8 through the enlarger