The Process of Processing – Film

For many years I was employed in visual media, television broadcasting for the most part and to a lesser degree film and photography. In retirement, I returned to photography, which I first really explored in the early 1970's. Up to that time, I had only taken pictures with whatever camera my family had and the film went to the "Drug Store" for developing.  My return to picture making was never intended to be more than just a way to occupy free time. Retirement, however, can be a funny thing. I soon found myself owning a business. Dealing with taxes, business reports, and accountants. Somehow, I seemed busier than when I had a job.

This is my look back at how my fascination with photography started and why the importance of capturing that moment in time stayed with me all these years.

A New York television station where I was employed had a graphics department with some of the more talented and unusual artists in the city. Looking back I don’t think they realized how good they were but they were the coolest people I had met.

Roller Dryer

On one of my daily trips to just hang out in the Art Department, I saw Charlie (or Chuck) coming out of the darkroom carefully carrying a wet piece of paper. It was a photographic print and it was on the way to the dryer. I was mystified. He hadn’t gone in with a picture or a blank sheet of paper. How had this miracle happened?

After several days of persisting and buying beer I was allowed in the darkroom to “watch”. Strange term since at least ten minutes of this was in total darkness. I was instructed to turn on the light (the red one, which I had been shown as the first part of my lesson). I saw Chuck or was it

Charlie holding a small metal container gently rotating it upside down and back. “This is the developer”, he said. “I had the chemical in the canister before I started, I would be hard to pour that part in the dark.”

But how did the film get in there from the tiny yellow tube with green markings displaying, Kodak TRI-EX.

I was mystified at first, now then fascinated but I didn't know I was hooked for life.

Before I was allowed to tackle an exposed roll of film, I was given a small reel of 35mm film leader.  A gray piece of film that was added to to the front of an actual movie prior to the countdown. With this was a wire reel to place the leader on. I was shown what and how to do this spooling, which seemed so easy when they did it and left to stand there and practice. It required just the right squeeze and turning, one crimp and damage the negative. After a while, I entered the darkroom with these two items in hand and practiced in the dark.

I remember closing my eyes as I attempted the spooling onto the reel as if that would make it darker, harder and me better at it.

I learned how to place everything I needed and in the order, it was needed. I learned to see in the dark. The film canister, can opener, developer tank, were placed in order. Then the moment of truth. The door closed and locked, the red light on the outside was switched on, warning “No Entry”. Meticulously I set out to make personal history.

I began to shoot more often and I wasn't bad at it. At the TV station, we had some press badges but no real press department. The news show used lots of wire service photos and I got to go on assignment to local events when I had the time. I'll always remember that one of the assignments was Robert Kennedy's funeral service and my photos were used on the evening newscast.

To see more images of our two-year Senior Ex-Pat travel journey, please visit my website at gregoryspring.com.  You can find me on FaceBook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Our Travel Blog is Grace's Wanderlusting Dreams: Still Bohemian at 65, follow her on FaceBook and Twitter.

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