I recently made reference to the “Digital Darkroom.” One of those weird, never really caught on, 1990s buzz words for Marvels of the Future that echoed early century world’s fairs. Spectral cyber Edwardians aside I started from the pre-digital photography era. Mind, I am not claiming pixel based ignorance. I embraced digital quickly out of an inherent need to be able to bring my thoughts to reality, but I also come from a practical background.
I shot tons of film as a child on a Fisher-Price camera with rubberized corners that shot on those funky reel to reel-esque canisters and accepted an even stranger flash cube. So when photography was an offered course in high school I jumped on it. My school allowed us the use of old Pentax cameras with stock objectives (did something just stir in the recesses?), as much stock as we could afford, run of the campus, and the use of the darkroom to duplicate and process. As a result of taking that class I can easily make this:
Sometime after high school I got hired as a cashier at a chain that also had a 1-hour photo service. While working there I spent a large amount of time on an AGFA developer/printer that had a range of fine tuning options a photo technician could use to render exceptionally better prints. If you have ever used a 1-hour photo service you know probably how many times those fine tuning options have been used. For ease:
The bottom right half represents, generally, what my cameras output. Whether film or digital. The upper left shows what just a tiny bit of adjustment can help them be.
At the same time I was taking photography in high school. I was also taking a number of graphic design classes next door. These focused more on digital voodoo. A telling sentiment. Over the years, digital interference in the creative process has come to be accepted as not just one of many tools but, for many, the one stop shop to grant every last wish from your imagination’s desire.
After all of these years of shooting and sheepishly adventuring in RAW space. I only just realized that the digital darkroom enveloped my workflow a long time ago and that it was ever a place to fear or revile. More than that, armed with this knowledge a long held prejudice has broke down and that just makes me all the more versatile… and who is not enchanted by versatility?
All photos are derived from the same RAW photo and processed digitally.