At twelve years old, I received my first camera as a birthday present. It was a Kodak Instamatic, the kind with the removable flash cubes on the top! The film was loaded easily because it came in a plastic cartridge. I loved that camera! In order to develop the film, one had to take the used cartridge to the local drug store and wait a week before the prints were ready.
My next camera was a Polaroid Instant Camera. Once you snapped a pic, the print came out of the bottom of the camera. It had to be shaken for a number of seconds in order to begin to see the image of the photo taken. That was a fun, but rather expensive way to develop pics!
Years later, as a college student in the late 1970s, I took a couple photography classes. I learned all about different type of film cameras. The one I settled on for the class was my trusty Pentax K1000. It required 35mm film, which I bought at the camera store. I experimented with black and white, slides and different speed color films. The teacher taught us about composition and lighting and exposure.
I became hooked on taking pictures, but the difficult part was waiting the week or so to get my photos back from the drug store photo department. That was the case until I learned about setting up my very own darkroom! We had an unfinished laundry room off my bedroom downstairs. I asked my parents if I could close it off and seal it from any light shining through the cracks. They were happy to encourage my hobby and forgo their plan for the time being.
Thus began my darkroom days, filled with rolling my own black and white film, developing my own negatives and then printing my own photographs. I purchased my own photo enlarger as well as other darkroom essentials: a timer, a red safe light to be able to see even when the room was darkened, photo trays and chemicals to produce the photos.
It was a freeing experience to not have to wait a week to see a photo I just took. What a concept! I loved making photos for my friends and family. My interest only grew over time and I became much more proficient with practice. I was a do-it-yourselfer photographer! I loved the creativity it brought out in me!
I turned my hobby into a side job type of thing. I took photos of youth sports teams and theater productions, as well as business portraits and sport action shots. I soon had so many photos to print that I had to get help and used a photo printing service for so many multiple prints. I kept the darkroom for my own personal work and photos so I wasn’t pressured by my customer’s deadlines!
By the 1990s, while I still took tons of photos, my darkroom days were slowly winding down. I no longer had enough time for my longtime hobby. And after that, my darkroom finally was taken down and turned into the laundry room at my parent’s house, that it was originally meant to be.
My enlargers and other darkroom equipment sat on shelves for many years. This year, I decided to “move them on” to others who could use and appreciate their purpose and value. Our world has changed into a digital one. Now we all take instant photos with our phones. And most of us don’t even print photos much anymore.
I cleaned up all the equipment and put them up for sale on eBay, Craig’s List and Next Door. What do you know, I’ve sold all three of my enlargers and even a box of old, unused and outdated film paper, as well as one of my timers. There are a few more items to go. It makes me both happy and sad. It was such a fun hobby and part of my life, but honestly I’m not going back to those days. One enlarger actually went to a college student interested in photography. It felt like things had gone full circle!
It is reality that things will come and go in our lives. I am happy to move some of my favorite things around the universe. Do you have things that you have let go of? Any old hobbies that you will never get back to, but you still keep them anyway?