SoCS – Black and White Photography

Linda is back with a new challenge for us this week. Pop over to Linda’s place to join in: Life in Progress – check out the rules and the contribution of other bloggers.

This week, the prompt is:

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “black, gray, and white.” Use one, use ’em all. Bonus points if you use all three. Have fun!

My interest in black and white photography started becauseI had an interest in hand coloring photographs. If you have old family portraits around, you may well have some portraits that were hand painted by a studio artist.

To hand paint a photograph, you must start with a black and white photographs. Sounds easy enough except the oil must be applied to fiber paper rather than the traditional resin coated paper. That was a problem.

I was living in southern Maine at the time so I leafed through the yellow pages(remember those?) and found a black and white photographer who specialized in fine art black and white photography. (I later found out he liked photographing nudes thus his claim of ‘fine art’).

I went to the studio and met Everett. He was a nice man who was willing to teach me how to print my own photos and the basics of hand coloring.

I took my little Pentax K1000 and my gray card and started taking photos. I went back to the studio where I learned how to remove the film from the camera and load it into a developing tank all in complete darkness. After processing the film, it required drying time because developing is a wet process.

After developing the film, I learned how to use the enlargers to print my photos. In those days, all the paper was graded which meant you could not use filters in the enlarger to compensate for contrast adjustments. I fell in love with the darkroom.

Everett was kind enough to rent his darkroom to me for $5 an hour. From that day forward, every Wednesday after work I spent at least three hours in the darkroom processing own film and printing my own photos.

This was the kind of creativity in which I could totally lose track of time and all the world’s distractions.

I no longer have access to a darkroom and digital photography has almost replaced film photography. But for the diehard lovers of silver gelatin prints, it is all still out there.

19 thoughts on “SoCS – Black and White Photography”

  1. I also dabbled in black and white photography a long long time ago. My dark room was the garage which conveniently contained a sink and running water. My photos were never very good – contrast was usually lacking – but it was fun…

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    1. Working in the darkroom was always a joy. There is nothing like seeing your vision rise out of a tray of developer! We once talked about building our own darkroom, but disposal of chemicals was a problem since we were on a septic system.


    1. It was a great escape. I was a fellowship student at an art school for a while and we had a private darkroom which was great!

      Yes, Ansel Adams and all the other great photographers. They worked for their photos with those large format cameras.

      And classic black and white movies are the best!


  2. For a short time, my senior school ran an ‘extra’ class in developing and printing photographs. I didn’t have a camera at the time, but they had loan cameras that we could use for a week, and then develop our roll of film. I remember being amazed as I watched my first ‘real’ photo appear in the tank, and then pegging the 8 X 10 print up to dry. Sadly, the teacher who was running the class left the Art Department a few weeks later, and it wasn’t continued by his successor.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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      1. I wanted to continue it at home, but my parents didn’t want the chemicals in the house and my dad announced it was a ‘Five minute wonder’, in his opinion. 🙂


  3. I’ve never actually used a dark room myself, but have watched someone make the magic and can imagine why you fell in love with it. Seems like I remember someone coloring photos with colored pencils and a very light touch.

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  4. I tried the pencil route when I started scrapbooking. I was a total failure. I wish I had an opportunity to work in a darkroom. My younger daughter took photography in high school and loved the dark room.

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    1. Most people only have resin coated paper which protects the image and prevents anything from penetrating the surface. The darkroom was so cathartic for me.

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