photography in reverse: day eight


Our first weekend brought us the first party (in the glass studio), our first dressing up & dancing, our first solid hangovers… I had spent Saturday down in Asheville, running a few errands, seeing a few friends, and generally wandering around, but made it back up the mountain in time to join in the fun. Clearly everyone else had a pretty full-on time, if the morning after was anything to go by. Sunday was gloriously sunny, if a bit cold and windy, and completely quiet. I think an awful lot of people were hiding out, sleeping, and nursing themselves back to normalcy. Me, I had a wonderful wander of the woods, a little dancing around work in the studio, but not much. It was a true Day Off.

Monday we were all right back in it, now moved over to the main darkroom area, the only place I ever really knew of as the Photo Studio, from the first day I came to Penland in 1992… I’m so happy to be heading back into the Handmade, and away from relying on business and corporations (e.g. waiting for our film to be developed by someone else in some other city, then shipped back to us.) Today we did good ol’ Black & White 35mm film. I figure that puts us in the heyday of the 50s or so, and some jazz or Ella Fitzgerald’s Cole Porter Songbook were excellent on the soundtrack.

The students seemed pretty confident with their 35mm cameras, after spending the weekend using them to shoot chromes – even the ones who’d never shot film before. (I continue to be pleased at the organization of our days, although I often think that stems more from dumb luck than good planning on my part.) Today the plan was to shoot a roll of Black & White in the brilliant morning light, then develop it this afternoon. I handed them each some film and… we all just sat there a bit. Honestly, I think everyone just kinda wanted to hang out for a little bit more this morning. I have to say this group of students is so kind to each other, so funny with each other, so supportive and helpful. I already love them so much, it’s almost heartbreaking…

When we met up again after lunch, I gave them lots of time to practice rolling their film onto the developing reels, really the only thing difficult at all about processing one’s own film; the rest of it is just following the recipe. Of course, we did have to print out a better “recipe” to post on the wall, since the one that was here looked like it’d been written by a drunken toddler on his last crayon. I described the process to them once through, getting them to start thinking about what’s happening chemically to their film as it goes through each step (happy little halides!) Once they were ready with their own reels loaded, I had them follow along as my assistant developed her film, then had them dive on in. In the end there were only a few minor mishaps – a little film stuck together in places from wonky rolling – but everyone ended up with some well-exposed negatives to use for printing tomorrow. A solid, successful day… Onward and Backward!

That evening, as I sat around after dinner, the campus was treated to another tawdry sky. At first I was just amazed at the early evening light – a cool yellow, decidedly not Summery yet, but hinted at, like a boy who looks like his father… I loved how it came through the trees to my porch, all brilliant and blurred, like. But soon, as the sun fell, all through the valley was this wild color – orange clouds with pink bellies and blue haloes touching the hilltops, spreading in every direction. When you thought that was enough, the color would riot, the whole sky a smeared rainbow, pinks to reds, the blues deepening. Okay, Penland, I hear you; you’re beautiful, I know.

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