Shedding light on the Darkroom

A+student+uses+the+Darkroom%2C+a+student+space+located+in+South+Campus+Loggia%2C+inside+the+craft+studio.+PHOTO+BY+ANDREW+TUCKER.

A student uses the Darkroom, a student space located in South Campus Loggia, inside the craft studio. PHOTO BY ANDREW TUCKER.

Kate Smith

A student uses the Darkroom, a student space located in South Campus Loggia, inside the craft studio. PHOTO BY ANDREW TUCKER.

In the age of texting and tweeting, the ability to capture a moment has become so simple. In those five or so seconds it takes for you to take a photo, maybe longer if there is a caption involved, your camera has made many small adjustments, focus, shutter speed, flash, contrast, so that your image can be viewed in optimum glory. And all you have to do is tap a screen.
While most areas on campus have been infiltrated by the digital era, there is one place that 21st-century technology has yet to permeate: the Darkroom.
Situated just outside the south campus loggia in the craft studio, the Darkroom doesn’t look like more than a closet on the outside. However, the scent of photo developing chemicals gives way to the true purpose of this space. Photography appliances line the walls, along with posters and signs detailing the photography process. Trays lie on the drying rack, ready for use.
“I didn’t know it existed my first year, and I’m a third year,” said Keli Vitaioli ’19, one of the student coordinators. This is understandable, given the room’s often overlooked location. “There are years where it only really gets used by a few people who know about it.”
However, Vitaioli, along with Ella Williams ’19, is trying to change this by making the Darkroom more known as a “student space.”
While clubs like the Photography Club are recognized by SGA, the Darkroom is considered merely a “space.” It does not receive funding from the Student Activity Fund, which a small part of student tuition subsidizes.
Vitaioli explained that, while the Photography Club works more digitally, the Darkroom uses only film cameras. While the idea of needing a film camera and supplies seems daunting, students can use the Darkroom at no expense. All supplies, such as film, tools for processing both film and paper and even an expander, are complementary.
“The only thing we don’t have are cameras,” Vitaioli informed. However, the AV center houses two film cameras that can be checked out for use. For the added expense of 25 dollars, you can gain P-Card access to the Darkroom outside the bounds of its operating hours. No previous photography experience is necessary, and anyone interested is encouraged to use this space.
“Darkroom photography is a lot more about patience, and as someone who’s pretty antsy, it’s a good way to remind yourself to slow down. Everything has a set amount of time, and if you speed it up, you’re going to end up with a bad product. You give yourself this time.” Vitaioli went on to explain that when photos are being developed, even the light of a smartphone screen can ruin an image. Instead of a photo taken on your phone, probably to never to manifest in print form, the steps for developing a photo in the Darkroom are tedious and demand close attention to detail. The procedure and conditions must be perfect. This laborious process contrasts the instant gratification offered by smart phone picture-taking.
“I take a photo, and I might not develop that roll for a month or two, and I don’t even remember what’s on the role, and I have no idea how it’s going to turn out. It’s different.”
In the rush of Grinnell College life, when you have more than a moment to spare, put down the technology and head to the Darkroom.
The Darkroom’s hours are Mondays 7-9 p.m., Tuesdays 4-5 p.m., and Saturdays 1-3 p.m. You can find it on Facebook by searching Grinnell Darkroom.