Jonathan Lee, Fine Arts and Digital Media Teacher
Submerged within the liquid, a blank sheet of paper hovers. The murky image begins to reveal itself, as the print comes to life before your eyes. From the sweet smell of the chemicals; to the fashionably hip equipment, the rebirth of the analog photography process is coming back to life in the world today.
York House School wanted to embrace the revival of the film photographic process for both creative and educational purposes. However, the old darkroom, located in the art room, desperately needed a facelift as the rotting countertops, rusted pipes, poor ventilation, and general neglect of the facility were yearning for revitalization.
During the restoration process, the revolving door, which stops light from entering the room, was left untouched while everything else was demolished. The plumbing was completely replaced and a temperature controlled, three-faucet unit was installed. Where the old rusted sink used to lie, a brilliant eight-foot sink was mounted allowing for a variety of processes to be performed, such as resin coated and fibre based developing. The countertops, cupboards and drawers were replaced and the dated salmon pink walls were painted over with a more suitable mid-tone grey.
For safety and general health reasons, the ventilation was completely reviewed and calibrated to ensure a suitable amount of fresh air is constantly circulated throughout the room. A new overhead exhaust unit was constructed specifically for this purpose, complete with the correct lighting for the working environment. In addition, the art department procured some very useful equipment to complete the photographic area and offer the students a fully functional and comprehensive facility.
The facilities are using the most up to date chemicals, which take into consideration the safety of the students and the greater environment. We follow all WHMIS guidelines and have all Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each Ilford Photo chemical product posted for review. Our aim is to make the photographic darkroom a safe and sustainable place where students take responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of the facility.
The Art Department is embracing a nostalgic technique in an age which relies heavily on forms of instant gratification instead of product and process; there is something to be said for learning a skill that involves time to think, focus and understand the finer points of that concept. Learning about and utilizing this new artistic space will expose students to the creative process, encourage personal responsibility, and also result in the production of work that demonstrates a thorough understanding of this cross-disciplined form.