I never thought I would step foot in a place I had a love-hate relationship with for four years. Booker T. Washington Magnet High School was where I learned a little bit of myself. I don’t compare to those who had all 4 years of experience, but I learned just enough photography my junior and senior year of high school. Sure, the school is still a little dilapidated and crusty, and our buildings may be falling apart each year, but I will always be proud of where I came from.
I didn’t just pick up a camera and decided to be a photographer. Through lots of encouragement, anxiety, and self-doubt, I learned. Art is always open to interpretation. Photography is not easy. A good photograph consists of so many elements. This place encouraged, developed, and nurtured my creativity.
I entered the familiar double doors and was greeted by some photographers in the gallery shooting with studio lights. When I stepped foot into the vast room, nostalgia hit me real hard. I was a little girl trying to be cool and artsy. I always photographed jars, coffee, and sunflowers. I was lame and basic. I stood on stools to reach things (I still do that).
Photography fumes immediately hit my nostrils. I missed the smell so much. I actually missed how much my instructor and classmates encouraged me and believed in me. The place was always filled with constructive criticism and positivity. I have two years of actual photography classes under my belt. I miss the the process.
Being terrified of the dark is not exactly the best thing for a photographer. We loved light, but we also need darkness. The film closet was where we rolled film. We would finally open the back of the camera after shooting 24-36 exposures and roll the film for development… completely in the dark.
Here is the lovely film sink where you stood for about 30 minutes, filling, dumping, and agitating chemicals to develop your film. I always loved developing my film with someone, but I also hated it when there were more than two people were at the sink because we would always end up bumping into each other. There were days where I did the process perfectly, then days where I accidentally skipped a step because I’m an idiot.
Film tanks and film reels
Once you finished rinsing your film, you get to see the magic of the negative. It always fascinated me how pretty much nothing turns into something with just the exposure to the right amount of light and chemicals. After going through the process of film development, we move on to the film dryer.
Classes were about an hour and 20 minutes long, so the most you can accomplish in a day is rolling your film, developing it, and drying it. There would be some time to make a contact sheet.
Now let’s get to the fun part, the darkroom. Once you printed a contacted sheet and see what you have to work with, you choose the best of the best and print to your heart’s content (or until you run out of photo paper).Photography uses both light and darkness to create prints. We use light to expose our film and then use darkness to print. The only light provided in the darkroom is the light from the enlarger station and the amber light that allows us to see our hands in front of our faces. What happens in the darkroom stays in the darkroom. We would always dance like no one’s watching because you can barely see. The room full of chemicals was the party room.
I turned on the lights to photograph these.
Paper cutting station
Here’s my enlarger station with my fave footstool
With the lights on in the darkroom, you can see print developer everywhere. Photograph things not only for what they are, but also for what else they are. People are not just people. People are silly. People are fierce. People are beautiful. My subjects are not just people. They are more than. Photographers create art with their subjects.
Level 1 gets blamed for everything
Once prints were done, at the end of class we would leave them in the wash to rinse off all the chemicals.
“Hanging” Prints to dry
BTW is doing such a great job with encouraging students to tap into their mind and let their creativity run wild. I will forever be a yellow jacket (no matter how silly it was to have a bug as a mascot). Be proud of where you came from.
I never signed it lol
This was home. This was where I would be so focused on my work and wished I had more time to keep developing and printing. This place believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself. I am who I am today because of my teachers and my classmates. Thanks for always believing in me and encouraging me to pursue “Excellence in all things.” It’s time to move on and find a new “home.”