What I Left Behind – Darkroom

Back in the early part of the year when I first faced the very real prospect of having to move out of the house I had lived in for over 27 years, I thought that I would have some serious emotional attachments to deal with in leaving the house. In reality, by the time that I had worked eighteen and twenty hour days for weeks to get packed and moved out, and given the buyer’s known plans to gut and completely rebuild the place, I was so over that house at the end that I could not possibly have cared less.

On the other hand…

The biggest challenge was the literally tons of stuff that had been accumulated. At first I tried to organize and sort and catalog, but it wasn’t long into the process before it became a matter of survival. Everything I touched had four possible fates with little time to think about the judgement:

  1. Move to the new house
  2. Move to storage
  3. Donate
  4. Trash

There was no fifth option.

Option #4 got way, WAY more use than I thought it would. I became more ruthless than I have ever been in my life about letting go of material things and either offering them up for donation/recycling or just trashing them.

Now that we’re a few weeks down the road from that deadline, starting to settle into a normal routine, and I’m going back through the pictures I took to document the whole process (you’ve heard it here before – I take LOTS of pictures!), I’m finding that THIS is where the emotional attachment issues are.

For example…

I started learning to develop film and print my own photos in the darkroom when I was in high school, nearly fifty years ago. At that point I was a dead broke high school student with nothing but the income from a couple of paper routes, so equipment was hard to come by. But once I got into college, had a job, and had some discretionary income to use, some mid-grade darkroom equipment got bought.

Needless to say, it hasn’t been used in decades with the advent of digital photography. I never had a really good enlarger, so the cheap enlarger I had went into the trash, broken, years ago. But all of the other stuff was halfway decent quality, and it stayed in boxes. “One of these days…” was my mantra.

But in this moving and donating and trashing frenzy, my brain finally pushed to the point where it was capable of making the tough decisions, the darkroom equipment all went into the trash. The little light-tight canisters for developing film. The boxes of photo paper (which no doubt had become useless years ago just through exposure to heat and time). The frames used to make nice borders on 8×10, 4×5, and wallet sized photos. The frame for holding negatives and making proof sheets. The trays for holding the developer, stop bath, and fixer as I made prints. The boxes of cloth gloves and sleeves for holding negatives.

All tossed ignominiously into the dumpster, with only a moment to spare for a single photo because I knew, despite my exhaustion, that there was something being left behind.

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Filed under Castle Willett, Paul, Photography

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