In first grade I was asked to use crayons to color the Mallard ducks we visited on our mini field trip to the elementary school’s nature center pond. I turned in my representation of the male ducks I saw that afternoon, but apparently it did not meet with the teacher’s approval. There I was in first grade and I had flunked coloring. Fast forward to my senior year in high school with a need to express my creativity in some artistic fashion.
I am so thankful to have found a black and white photography class and a camera I can use. My photography teacher, Mr. Shields, is one of the best teachers at Huron High School in Ann Arbor, and on top of that his sarcasm and humor are just what I need in the middle of a long school day. From Day One we are told we cannot photograph ducks. Phew! No more criticism of my crayon portrayals of ducks to worry about.
I’m excited to learn about lighting and exposure. I find that it’s quite easy for me to roll film onto a spiral cannister for developing. I can still feel the flexible film as I wind it carefully around the wheel so that one layer does not sit on top of another and possibly ruin images in the developing process. The darkroom IS dark, but I never feel lost in that space. It’s quiet with the exception of the quiet flow of running water in one of the developing baths. Only two or three of us are in there at a time and we are all intent on the moment when our images will magically appear on our blank photo paper which soaks in the developing solution. We are those kids. We might not be able to create with crayons, but give us our camera and our photographic paper and chemicals and we become artists in another medium. And, if we we are lucky, our photos receive recognition. Mine was and my artistic confidence soared.
It is a simple photograph, taken during spring break. My daily walk on a narrow strip of beach near my grandmother’s apartment building in Hallandale, Florida revealed some heavy equipment floating on a raft of sorts in the ocean. Turns out storms from the previous years have washed much of the beach away so a large crane is about ½ mile from shore to start pumping in sand to expand the narrow strip. I carefully frame the photograph making sure to catch just the right lighting off the reflective metal on the crane and bring it back to Ann Arbor to work through the developing process. I add a filter during the exposure process that gives the photo a super cool texture. I turn it into Mr. Shields for his feedback. I receive some great feedback that also includes an invitation to have my work displayed in an upcoming art show at the Rackham Building on the University of Michigan’s campus. My parents later hang the photo in their lakeside cottage.
I wish I knew where that photo was now.
Creating art through photography probably led me to be interested in video production later in college. I am sure it has kept me interested in digital media to this day. Where at one time the darkroom was my happy place, I am able to find my creative juices flowing today in the edit suite. The heck with crayons!