Blog #20 Photography Club
Most of my professional work life is spent as an educator and administrator with an international school here in Hong Kong. I love my work. It's ever-changing, challenging, and demanding. Teaching is something that I went to school to learn and have been successful working with various students and (training) teachers over a couple of decades ago. My first passion is my family. Without them, I would be lost in the great void of selfishness probably bordering on destructive behavior (seriously). My second passion is education with a close third passion being photography. The natural result or inevitability of these slightly related fields must rest firmly at the intersection of teaching photography. It's been said that if you really want to learn a lot about something, teach it. By teaching, we learn. It sounds cheesy and cliché but there's gold in 'dem 'thar hills.
Our international school has one of the best kept secrets in Hong Kong. We have a darkroom. We teach pinhole, film, and digital photography to primary school students and have a photography club. One of the board members has an extensive camera collection that spans across decades of beautiful examples of cameras from the 1940s, 1950, and 1960s, mostly. The school recently moved to a new place and built a dedicated darkroom space. I have been helping to prepare the space, order supplies, and signed up to teach a 35mm black and white film photography course this term over an eight week term. Fortunately, a co-teacher at the school, Brendan, will be the main instructor. Even better, he has a BFA degree in Photography from SCAD Hong Kong, a proper university for creative careers https://www.scad.edu/locations/hong-kong. Another talented parent and teacher with photography and darkroom experience will also assist us. I am the assistant and will have other assistants, in essence. With some good experience under our belts, we set out to revive the photography club once again. First things first, we needed to order supplies; time to go shopping!
After we received our order of developer and other essential chemicals, from my local friend and supplier, Vishal, at https://camerafilmphoto.com (next day delivery) we set out to develop our first roll of film a couple of weeks ahead of the start of the class. My film-loading-onto-reel-in-the-dark skills have not been used since high school in the mid-eighties when big hair and day glow clothing were all the rage. Needless to say, I made a few mistakes, but we got it done. After eight minutes of agitating in developer, 1 minute of stop bath, and 5 minutes of fixer, and then a final rinse, presto-chango, like magic, the small images appeared on the negatives. Now, there is the drying, scanning, and printing that need to be sorted. Oops! The bulb in the enlarger is busted and it's a USA model, and replacement bulbs are half-a-world-away. No worries, the internet can be made to do our bidding and like magic, a couple of new bulbs will travel across the ocean to our doorstep in a mere 10 days time.
There are many steps and even more ways to make mistakes in the film development process. Here's what I learned so far:
Rule #1 = Be patient and Read the instructions.
Rule #2 = Nothing ever comes out perfect the first time.
Rule #3 = If Rule #2 is observed, Start over at Rule #1.
This is exactly the whole point and the process forces one to slow down, enjoy and appreciate the final result. Digital photography (technically) is so easy and poses almost no challenge. It really is a point and shoot activity. Many photographers agree that learning the fundamentals of photography and spending time learning to use a manual camera and printing in the darkroom is a valuable and enjoyable experience. We hope to share the experience with our students so that they experience exactly that. For more on the romanticism of full manual, pros and cons, read Eric Kim http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2016/04/18/in-favor-of-p-program-mode-in-photography/.
There will be mistakes for the teachers and students as there always is when learning something new. Learning can be messy. It can also be fun and lead to bigger and better acts of creativity and a lifetime of artistic expression and enjoyment through photography. Maybe one of the students will be inspired to teach photography someday to the next generation. That would be one of the greatest outcomes that the photography club could ever hope for. Wish us luck.
May the light be you, always.
Below: Shelves fitted with fresh film and supplies in our new darkroom ready to be explored by eager young photographers.