I am feeling very inspired to create some photos today after watching Errol Morris’s “The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography. A beautiful film about a lovely and talented woman.
I miss my darkroom, film, Hasselblad, and Poloroid cameras.
While in art school my dad helped me set up a dark room and photo studio in the basement of my childhood home. I spent hours, music blasting, processing film and printing black and white images on equipment bought, using credit card cash advances, from a dentist who had lost interest in the craft. I don’t miss the feeling of panic in my stomach waiting for unprocessed film to turn out after adding the right chemicals, at just the right time, and agitating the film canister. But there was something very magical about watching images emerge in a tray right before my eyes. I can still smell the fixer on my fingers.
Something else I miss was working with my mom, the very best photography assistant ever. She and I would travel up and down the front range to jobs. When I was 24 I owned my own studio “Snowflake Snapshots” which I purchased from Mary and Joe Farace after working for them right after art school.
My Mom and I lugged hundreds of pounds of equipment in and out of locations, completing jobs, sending film to the processing company, fielding calls from clients, and having fun on the road. This was before google maps so my dad would help us plot our course for the day. We always, always got lost in Aurora. Why are the roads there so confusing?
One of our most meaningful portrait sessions was with a little girl with cancer who was getting treatment at Children’s Hospital. I had seen her in a news story and contacted her parents, who were struggling on many levels, to offer a free sitting. She was an angel and had the most beautiful eyes, and vivacious spirit.
My mom was a cancer survivor but we did not yet know that Viola, my sister, would die from cancer and that I would be diagnosed as well. We also did not know that following my diagnoses that my sons, particularly Austin, because of a choroid plexus mass, would be spending a great deal of time at Children’s due to a genetic abnormality that makes us and some of our extended family more at risk for any kind of cancer.
A few years later the pressures of small business ownership and no healthcare and a plum job offer in an entirely different field helped me decide to sell my studio. I met my kids’ dad, moved into a new to us home, and started a family.
I almost gave up photography entirely at the beginning of the digital age. Is it a phone or a camera that I carry with me all day everyday?
I donated most of my dark room equipment to ARC a while back knowing that the chemicals and methods used processing and making photos from film was a thing of the past and environmentally unsound.
Slowly, I have come to terms with always advancing photo technology.
But I now realize, photography isn’t about the gear at all. It is the connection between you and your subject.
Thanks Elsa for reminding me.