Get Out Of the “Dark” About Darkroom Photography

Traditional film and darkroom processes have been undeniably dying out over the past several decades with the invention of the digital camera. The new generation of photographers is following an interesting trend, though, with a sudden enthusiasm for the film medium. It’s a craze led by the likes of Gucci muse Petra Collins that can be compared to the record player: trend in music, people seem to believe that film is more “raw,” “real,” and creative.

Sheets of rolls of film.

Last class, when had my second experience with traditional black and white manual photography, I worked on developing film. If you aren’t familiar with this, there’s an entire process including working in the darkroom, that allows photos that are taken on a roll of film to be accessed. The whole process of development is multilayered and can be stressful for a beginner, especially in the darkrooms; a pitch-black environment that is essential for the photos to not be ruined because they are light-sensitive materials. After processing the roll of film, it is soaked in chemical baths and left to dry. This process allows you to access only 36 photos that one cannot see until the end, meaning that there is no way to tell if the shots will appear until you take out the photos and set them to dry. This is the risqué nature of the medium that some people reference as more artful than digital.

I interviewed photography instructor Cornelia Hediger to create an exposé on the ins and outs of traditional darkroom film, in comparison to digital photography.

Q: Do you prefer digital or film photography, and why?

A: Overall, I prefer the look and quality of a darkroom print vs a digital print. A traditional printed image, shot on film, has grain. I love the look of grain printed on fiber based paper. You cannot beat that look. It is absolutely stunning.

Q: What are some of the advantages of darkroom photography? What are some of the disadvantages?

A: The advantage of darkroom photography is that you have a negative to work from, versus a digital file. Each image is unique as the prints are done by a person and not a machine. A darkroom print still looks superior to me than a digital file printed in black and white. There are some very nice papers out there that mimic the look of a traditional fiber based print. Definitely, the paper and technology have come a long way and prints, produced with digital files, are starting to look better. The ‘disadvantage’ of a darkroom print is the time factor. It takes longer to produce a darkroom print versus a digital print.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of black and white film photography?

A: My favorite aspect of black and white film photography is that I absolutely love the process. I love to develop film and I love printing in the darkroom. I find it magical to watch an image come up in the developer and I like the slower process of producing an image. In the end, I also prefer the look of a black and white image printed on fiber based paper vs. a digitally produced image.

Q: For young photographers, do you recommend that they learn how to use both film and digital cameras? Do you consider film photography an essential for photographers?

A: I think it is a good idea for young photographers to learn shooting with film and at least experience the process in the darkroom. Film ‘forces’ you to slow down and perhaps be more responsible when taking an image. Each image is recorded on a negative and cannot be deleted like you would delete a digital image. Personally, I find the experience of learning how to take images with film/print in the darkroom essential when learning photography. To some people, it opens up a whole new world whereas others will find the process a slow and tedious one.

Q: Do you think darkroom photography will ever go “extinct”?

A: I do not know if darkroom photography will ever go extinct. In the fine arts, it seems to be making a comeback. The masses and everyday household will not turn around and go back to film. It seems that film and traditional darkroom printing is perhaps surviving through the arts. I have no idea, however, how photography will develop over the next decades.
-End of Interview

Chloe Abidi

Introducing Precollege Intern: Mahalia

Photo by Romy Weng

Hi! My name is Mahalia, I’m a photographer in the making, and I am an intern here at FIT’s Precollege Program. My passion for art, more specifically photography, was what brought me to FIT. I enjoy exploring different learning methods of art in different environments, and FIT is an incredible place for me to approach photography with a mindset on social components.

Out of all the different kinds of pictures I enjoy taking, landscapes, fashion, sports, etc. I adore taking portraitures. What caught my eye, was something about how humans react when they are on camera. People say you cannot judge a book by its cover, but I believe that a picture is worth a thousand words and more.

My goal in life is to become a professional photographer and be my own boss, which will require that I work extremely hard to reach that goal. In 2016 and 2017 I took classes at International Center of Photography (ICP) which taught me mostly about manual photography. However, right now I am focused more on the depth of digital photography and photoshop. Because not that many people know me, I also am learning how to network. Whenever I take pictures I am really fond of, I post them on an official photography Instagram account (@photo_moro) in order to make myself more known to the public.

Because I am a senior in high school, I deal with plenty of work and deadlines which builds stress for me. Coming from an artistic family, I find not only photography but art in general a stress reliever and much more. To me, art is something extremely fun and wonderful. Art makes the person I am today.

Mahalia :-)

Introducing Precollege Blogger: Chloe

Hello! I’m Chloe Abidi. I’m 16 years old and a sophomore at Ridgewood High School – Ridgewood is a NYC suburb in North Jersey that I moved to three years ago. My interests include modeling, the visual arts (more specifically photography and traditional mediums, like oil paint and graphite), the fashion industry, writing and traveling.

This is my first semester at FIT’s Precollege Programs and I am taking HPH 168 55A Introduction to Traditional Darkroom & Digital Photography. Photography is something that has become more and more prevalent in my life over the years. Growing up in a world of constantly evolving technology, I have seen photography grow into something that, quite literally, sits in the palm of everyone’s hands on a daily basis with the introduction of smartphones. For me, it seemed like a natural direction to move into.

The visual arts have always been a huge part of my life. I have a passion for all of the arts and find my own personal liberation within them. In addition to this, fashion modeling has entered my life as I’ve gotten older, and I’ve developed a love for it and the entire fashion industry on top of the visual arts. Photography is the perfect combination of those two things, and it is what I hope to pursue a career in.

~ Chloe Abidi

Introducing Precollege Blogger: Isabella

My name is Isabella Basile. I am from the garden state of New Jersey. I attend Marlboro High School. During the past three years in high school I’ve been taking fashion classes and next year I will be in a honors fashion class. I am taking my first FIT Precollege course this spring, which has been my dream college since elementary school. I am enrolled in, HAR 016 55A Creating a Fashion Figure. This July I will be attending more courses.

My passions are diverse. I love to design clothes and I get my inspirations from my travels. I like to make my designs a reality by sewing. Every time I’m at a destination I get inspired by the culture, people, and landscape. Whether it be from a tropical beach, magical city or seeing the land below me as I fly above the mountains. This all plays a major role in my vision.

I have a blog that I started last year. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been posted on many social media accounts. This is very exciting to me because it gets my name out for people to see who I am and what I am about. I’ve also been personally invited, for the first time to attend #NYFW2018 by designer Mac Duggal. It was so much fun! I loved every minute of it!! This experience made me more determined to have my own line to show the world. This past summer, while in Greece I had a photoshoot on top of the Grecian white buildings with blue domes. The dresses I wore were incredible and had a train that was about 20 feet long and flowed in the wind. These pictures captivated my followers and I grew a larger following with people from around the world. A company called, Buena Vita asked me to sponsor them because they found my blog on Instagram. This company sells bracelets to help make the oceans a cleaner and healthier environment for sea life.

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m truly a mermaid on the inside. I absolutely love the tropics!! One day, I will see girls wearing my designs on the beach. Whether it be a bathing suit, cover-up, beach bag or sandals, this is my dream. Aside from sewing, my daily routine consists of working out. I kickbox, cheer competitively and attend the gym. I also love to surf. I usually surf with my sister it is one of our favorite things to do together. I’m excited to blog for FIT as I can share my experiences here. As I learn, I can progress, as I progress, I can achieve!! My goal is to be accepted into FIT!!!

I am so eager to learn and I will work hard to have a brand one day!!

-Xo Bell

Introducing Precollege Blogger: Cindy

Hi, my name is Cindy Beal! I am a sophomore at Westfield High School. I am 15 years old and love art and sports. I have signed up for the Precollege course: HPH 168 Introduction to Traditional Darkroom and Digital Photography! I love photography. I took a class in Toronto one summer and learned so much, ever since that class I really got into photography.

My town holds a photography contest every year. I entered one year and won 2 awards, second and first place. I have also done darkroom at my sleepaway camp, I absolutely loved it. It gave me a vibe that photography is my thing. I thought it was so cool to compare digital photography to darkroom photography. This is what made me choose this course for this semester. Photography is not my only passion, I also love videography, creating montages and vlogs. I started a YouTube channel with my good friend Maggie, together we film vlogs and do challenges. Our channel is called “Somewhatsisters.” We got this idea because we spend so much time together that we feel somewhat like sisters. So we decided, why not name our channel “Somewhatsisters.”

Maggie and I want to make content like Katie Defo, Katie Defo is a USC lacrosse player. Katie’s vlogs focus around her campus and she includes lots of lacrosse montages. We want our videos to be like hers because they are amazing. Maggie and I also love Casey Neistat who is also a vlogger. Casey Neistat’s content is very inspirational. I love taking and editing videos.

I edit my videos on Filmora. Filmora is a great editing software for beginners and you can also use it to edit pictures. The camera that I use for videos and photography is the Canon Rebel T5. This is a great camera to use for both. Taking photos and making videos make me happy. Photos and videos are a great way to share with friends and family so they can see all the work I have done.

Besides photography and videography I love interior design. I took an Interior Design class here at FIT. I honestly did not know if I was going to enjoy the class but I ended up loving it. I learned so much! I did not realize how much you really need to know for Interior Design. Making floor plans was fun. I got to set a vibe on what I wanted my room to look like. Obviously, I still have a lot to learn but just from a beginners class I feel like I know what I’m doing. I love sharing and showing my artwork with my friends and family.

I also take art classes in my town and at school. At school I take ceramics which is so much fun. Ceramics is so relaxing and it’s one great way to learn art. I also take an art class outside of school where I learn how to draw still lifes and portraits. As you can see I love art but I also love sports. I am on a gymnastics team. Gymnastics is one of my passions. This is a little bit about me and what my passions are. I look forward to sharing my experiences in my FIT class. See you in a flash.

~Cindy Beal