Friday, January 18, 2008


I spent Swee’pea’s nap yesterday gathering and writing content for my new photography portfolio. Sugar D still has to design and develop it, but I’ve bought a new domain and I’m excited thinking about how the images will work together and what kind of text I want to include.

I never thought I would ever make the switch from film to digital. I worked in a camera and photofinishing store in 1999 and digital camera sales were growing exponentially, but I remained steadfast. I loved that with film, I was literally working light, making the little silver molecules on film dance to light. I loved working in the darkroom to make prints. It felt like time slowed down or disappeared when I was in the darkroom, and the quality of sound changed with all the images coming to life or hanging to dry around me. I loved gently swishing the developer and washing my image fade in, shadows first, highlights later.

I dreamed about having my own darkroom in my home, because I struggled a bit with commitment from time to time. Booking darkroom time in advance required a commitment that sometimes I didn’t want to make. Once I was in the darkroom, I enjoyed myself in the peace and excitement. But getting there was a challenge. I thought it would be easier if the darkroom were available in my home.

I remember when we were looking for a house to buy, the basement had to have a laundry tub and plumbing so I could eventually set up my own darkroom. The house we bought did indeed have a laundry tub, but thank goodness I never got around to setting up a darkroom down there. Our basement is dank and I can’t believe I ever thought it possible to make it into a place I would want to go to hang out in the dark. Thank goodness I came to my senses and switched to digital, where I can even enjoy a cup of tea while I work in the digital darkroom.

Although I loved making my own prints, I never enjoyed developing my own film. Too much pressure for one thing, working in pitch black and knowing that one false move could destroy the entire roll. You know why the movies never show people developing their own film? Because it’s pitch black and you can’t see a thing and you have to go entirely by feel. If you drop the roll of film while trying to get it on the spool, you have to feel around in the dark until you find, which is not so nice if your film developing room is also your bathroom. It doesn’t make for good cinematography. Much nicer to watch people humming around beneath a red light, hanging enlargements and waiting for images to appear in the developer.

I also worried about the chemicals. Although I was always told to wear gloves it’s a real pain in the ass because you have to put them on and take them off over and over and over again, and sometimes I just couldn’t be bothered. For this reason, I never went into the darkroom when I was pregnant or breastfeeding, although I fantasized.

And while part of the thrill of using film was its physicality, it was also its drawback. I never stored my negatives very carefully, and invariably they would get scratched or leaked on, and some of my favourite images have been destroyed forever. Even handling them to print is a risky and delicate undertaking. And the digital darkroom, while not exactly easier than the real darkroom, IS easier to undo. Through all my trials and errors, at least I don’t end up with print after print after print that I can’t bring myself to throw out but also have no use for.

Of course, digital images are at risk too, as I discovered when my cds got scratched on the way home from South Africa last year and I lost a few of my favourites. But at least I can back them up in multiple places and formats and be reasonably assured that I will be able to access at least one of those sources. Those blue jeans on a blue wall (over on the side bar with a link to imagekind where you can purchase it!)would have been lost forever if I hadn’t already uploaded its high res self onto flickr. When I consider my collection of images, those jeans are probably in the top five for me.

Life is a funny thing. A month ago, I wanted to write a book, a memoir. It somehow seemed more attainable than making a photography book. I told Sugar D, "I want to write a book. Now I just need to wait for something to happen to me." And he said, "Yeah, I used to think that too. Then something happened and I still can't write about it."

Now, mere weeks later, I want to be a photographer when I grow up. Not a commercial or wedding photographer, but an artist I guess. It started when Sugar D gave me a book for my birthday just after Christmas that featured photography with a similar aesthetic to mine. It was so inspiring. And then Mad went and nominated me for a Canadian Blog Award for Best Photo/Art Blog and that encouraged me so much I found a service to sell my prints through. I'm really chasing a dream here, and it's exciting and scary, yet just fine if it goes nowhere and I just keep pursuing my passion.

Thank you for voting for me at the CBAs... I hope I make it into the second round, but I have a feeling those other nominated blogs have much bigger readership so it's doubtful. And if you haven't yet... um, could you? Pretty please with sugar on top?

(Or you could buy a print, because at least half of the proceeds will be donated to the Stephen Lewis Foundation.)


Janet said...

I love where you talk about the darkroom needing to be pitch black. I took photography in Grade 13 and I always felt so ham fisted in the darkroom. Luckily, my Dad's expensive camera slid off the top shelf of my locker and crushed the lens! I dropped the class after that.

Your photos are stunning. I need to spend more time looking at them because I'm in the market for new art above my fireplace.

Jennifer said...

I love the way you talk about photography. And I love the jeans photo. Love. Now I'm off to vote!

Beck said...

I failed photography class twice. TWICE! I am SO glad to have a digital camera now!

ewe are here said...

I adore digital...

And your pictures. I voted for you, and really hope you make it into the second round.

Mimi said...

Ahh, I loved working with the film, actually. I used a special 'recipe' to make push Kodak 400 Tri-X to 800 and extra grainy. I loved that.

I'm so happy for you that you're pursuing the passion more seriously (that's not quite the word I mean. I think I mean, it's wonderful that you are taking yourself seriously? something like that, but not patronizing.)

Your photos are beautiful. Just beautiful.

slouching mom said...

May this be your life's work.

You brought back some nice memories for me, memories of being in the high school darkroom. I can even conjure up the smell of the chemicals, which, oddly, grew on me over time.

Kyla said...

I'm so glad you're doing this, it makes total sense to me. I've always been completely in love with your work.

Suz said...

You have a wonderful eye. I'm so glad that you've found something that you love so much.

flutter said...

You are so cool.

Violet said...

I think I can relate to what Sugar D said about writing a book.

Good luck with your photography career!

nomotherearth said...

For me, it's between the blue jeans and the bamboo, and I really can't decide. I'm excited for your new venture - I think it's meant o be.

And..I already voted for you :-)