The Homemade Dark Room.
Where we all had to go to the bathroom before we started, as no-one could use the toilet while we were all in there!
I was thirteen when I really noticeably got into Photography. At the time, my parents attended a church. They ran an award scheme for the children, it was a bit like after school clubs, or youth clubs for all the kids in the church. It was called the Kings Award Scheme and upon completion of the course, which was usually 4-6 weeks duration, for a couple of hours per week, you received a certificate.
Since such certificates of merit were not commonplace or even given out in our school. It gave me a real sense of achievement back then to be able to do something useful, and practical. It also gave the people in the church with practical skills, the opportunity to teach them to the kids. It also meant that if someone wanted to have something done on their house, they were able to get it done by someone in the church and a team of kids for the price of materials and refreshments. It is the place where I learned to plaster a wall, lay and point bricks to build a barbeque and develop photographs and later Mum and Dad decided that they wanted to have a go too.
So that is how we decided to turn our family bathroom into a temporary Dark Room, in the evenings while my sister, who was a toddler at the time was sleeping upstairs, we trooped into the bathroom. You see we had to have somewhere with a water supply and there was way too much light in the kitchen. So ever the practical ones, we created this space. A bright orange gloss painted door was placed over the bath, this was now surplus to requirements and the only thing large enough to so that we could lay our trays of developing fluid on it and the wash. On the cupboard in the corner, we placed the photographic enlarger, and the plug for it went through an extension lead which went out under the door. We tried to cover all other light sources with a bath towel so that small shaft of light could not seep underneath spoiling our efforts. The final addition was a large blanket covering the window. We also had a torch, for when we needed some light, since the light switch was on the outside of the bathroom door.
We were limited in our prints, to black and white and I noticed that if each process was prolonged there were interesting effects upon the printed results. The negatives had been selected beforehand in a room with the lights on, so we knew which ones we wanted to do. But that is how we spent several evenings, the three of us cramped in the bathroom, whilst my sister was sleeping soundly for the night. I loved those developing sessions. The smell of chemicals was heavy in the air and probably encouraged at least some of our artistic outcomes, but it was a time when I was able to bond with both of my parents simultaneously and also have a physical memento from it.
It also gave us the opportunity to go through the slides, which were the only film my father used to take photographs on when I was a small child. There were a few cine films too of other family members. But save for the school photographs, all the childhood pictures from when I was a baby were on slides, which meant we rarely got to see them. Unless the slide projector came out for an evening, which was too much hassle. I remember one time they did get the projector out though and being absolutely mortified when in a room full of people suddenly I was confronted with an image of me as a two year old sitting in the car seat in the back of a Morris Minor, absolutely covered in chocolate. I asked what had happened. Mum explained that “Daddy had given me a 2 finger KitKat and was surprised as to just how far it had travelled on a sunny afternoon” He was taking the photo, when Mum asked me to give him a cuddle, so there I was ear to ear grin and arms outstretched to greet him. I was so embarrassed that the memory of that has stayed with me. It is quite an innocent image, so I cannot understand why. I was too young to remember the actual memory of that day.
Other than that I did enjoy the nights when either cine or slides were set up in the lounge, the slides would allow us a peek into the family history, people from the past and happy occasions, holidays, parties and relatives.
I have been trying to encourage my parents to allow me to borrow these, so that I can see them again. Show them to my partner who has never seen them. Unfortunately neither parent is particularly keen to assist with this. My aim is to get be able to photograph them as they appear on the projector, so that I can turn them into a family album that can be shared between us all in years to come. No-one else seems bothered to do it, or even bothered that they may never be seen again. I am the sentimental one of my siblings, the others have their moments, occasionally we share in a memory, my sister being several years younger than my brother and I, has slightly different memories as we were so grown up when she was still small.
Some of the past it would be nice to keep alive. It shouldn’t all be buried and forgotten, there were good bits.