The relevance of traditional darkrooms! Thanks Freestyle Sales Co.

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jimgalli, Aug 9, 2006.

  1. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    "A college is a business; students are our customers. Our customers have spoken. No darkroom, no students."

    The words of Brent Wood, a fellow rocket scientist and current Chair of the Art Curriculum at Victorville College.

    The rest of the article is fascinating. It is here.

    Thanks to Kirk Gittings for pointing me to these fascinating accounts by each of the Freestyle Advisory members. Well worth a read!
     
  2. philldresser

    philldresser Subscriber

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    Jim

    An interesting article that just makes you want to say "we told you so". It would be interesting to know if this is a trend across the whole tertiary education system worldwide.

    Phill
     
  3. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    Jim,
    Interesting articles, however I think Brent Wood has it slightly around the wrong way. Paradoxically it was a "business" type decision which got rid of the darkrooms in the first place. i.e. the view that it was economically unviable to replace them after the renovation and "the market" was 80% digital anyway. I'm sure it was not a decision by the educators who probably knew all along the importance of traditional methods in providing a well-rounded education.

    I guess I have an ideological aversion to using the words business and customers when it comes to education. I think providing a decent education in a society is an obligation and not a profit centre. It will usually become perverted when run along business lines. You can't be thinking about the future when worrying about next quarter's earnings. I think many educational institutions have become centres for overpriced accreditation rather than places for real learning and critical thinking.
     
  4. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I particularly like the last few words "a room to keep the dark in".


    Steve.
     
  5. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    In a recent conversation with an apug member (ria), she mentioned a course she had completed at a local college. The course of study was in "alternative printing" and related matters. Most of the students were from the digital world, but wanted to be able to make negatives (mylar, etc.) to use traditional prints of various types. It seems the students who had no film and darkroom experience were having a very difficult time in making a proper print. Basically, they had no concept of exposure, development and contrast, so printing was almost impossible. Ria did very well, because she had the basic concepts in hand and was able to adapt. tim
     
  6. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Amen brother! It's always a crass way of justifying cuts because otherwise the customer will not be satisfied. Yeah right. Here at least they are not cutting back but adding something, though I prefer to be something else than a customer.
     
  7. Shmoo

    Shmoo Member

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    It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Some school administrators read that "film is dead" and then they cut the instructors and their budgets, let their darkrooms and equipment fall apart, and THEN they wonder why no one wants to take film classes there or teach there. I know of one of the major art colleges in our area that is doing just that. Sadly, they have one of the best darkrooms around, both color and b&w.
     
  8. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Well not all school boards are making what is now becoming a stupid business decision. Here in the state (backwards) of Utah they too were going to ax all traditional photography classes in favor of digital. Someone suggested that they should do a fast survey of all the colleges and Universities plus local High schools. What they found astounded them. Not only did traditional photography classes fill up completely each semester, there were long waiting lists for those who wanted to take them. As to the digital classes for photography, they were not filling up, and in some cases had to be deleted for lack of interest. What happened then was they decreased the digital classes, but kept the traditional photography classes in tact. Business decisions based on media hype and what some preceive are not always good. It takes rock solid facts to find out what is the basis of said decision to be made. It does become self fulfilling when abitrarily cuts get made to education without those facts. Once the traditional is cut and removed, there is no going back for most.
     
  9. raucousimages

    raucousimages Member

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    Aggie, we're not backwards. We're very forward looking. You just need to set your clock back about 100 years. Digital wont be here until about 2085 :wink: Just rember women in the Utah territory gave up the right to vote in order to become a state. Now that was backwards.

    Last year I rebuilt the dark room at the Pioneer Craft House (Granite High in Salt lake) Classes are being taught by U of U continueing ed. Darkroom work is not going away. Did photography kill oil painting? Digital will not kill film.
     
  10. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    Our's is going that route right now. The place is falling apart and the person teaching couldn't find their ass with both hands and a road map when it comes to darkroom work. There is little or no interest at the administration level in anything that will not transfer to a four year school, despite that fact that traditionaly Community Colleges have been geared toward the trades and other non degrees-required professions. There is little opportunity for the students to get any idea of what a traditional education could offer them here, and the death of the darkroom is just another symptom of the businessification of education... It's a sad testament to our time.

    - Randy
     
  11. severian

    severian Member

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    darkrooms forever!!

    Jimgalli,
    Thanks for bringing those articles to our attention. At the university where I teach the administrators have allowed the faculty to make decisions concerning curriculum, equipment etc. We have kept all the darkrooms in tact and have actually been given a good deal of money to expand the wet darkrooms. Students really enjoy making b&w prints and they seem to become much more involved in their own work when they begin mastering darkroom techniques. They own that work. It becomes unique and very satisfying for them. It would be silly for any photography program to abandon an art making tool as powerful as analog photography. Our painting program still has paint.
    I've been stocking up on used photo equipment for the school. Many people are unloading cameras, darkroom stuff and selling it for pennies on the dollar. I bought a 10x10 Chromega enlarger, with all the stuff, for $800.00. Buying equipment now at these prices has allowed me to expand the program so that there are 20 individual b&w darkrooms along with a number of special areas like cold light head enlargers and the 10x10. I have only 2 classes that are exclusively b&w.In all of my other classes students can make prints in any way they choose. A majority choose to make either silver or some sort of "alternative" prints. They have choices. Their art can take many different routes but the route that I have found that they like the most is silver gelatin printing.
    Jack
     
  12. Kirk Gittings

    Kirk Gittings Member

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    At the School of Art Institute of Chicago, where I teach in the summers, there remains a large commitment of fascilities and budget to traditional darkroom. Rather than taking over wet darkrooms for more computer expansion, they have sought additional space outside of photo to expand digital. This is at a school that prides itself on being at the cutting edge of technology.

    The school also offers stone lithography along side digital printmaking.

    At this point I am not worried, but as this generation of photo professors retires, things may change.
     
  13. digiconvert

    digiconvert Member

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    Thanks for saying that, off topic but as a High School teacher many of my 'customers' would probably pay NOT to get my services :tongue:

    You do make a valid point though, if the purpose of education is to expand someones ideas as well as their knowledge then a darkroom makes perfect sens in a photo course since it teaches you about the importance of LIGHT- which is the basis of photography, analogue or digital.
     
  14. Peter De Smidt

    Peter De Smidt Member

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    As someone who spent 10 years teaching at the college level, including classes in critical thinking, that is exactly what is happening, especially at small, tuition dependent (i.e. they have no meaningful endowment) colleges. I've got so many horror stories... But that's OT, and I have to take the film out of the washer.
     
  15. Richard Boutwell

    Richard Boutwell Subscriber

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    This thread is interesting. I actually went to VVC and knew Brent Wood fairly well. I went to the school a year before the darkrooms were replaced with computers. It is very safe to say that if I were two years younger, and showed up for the first day of class and sat down at a computer I would NOT BE A PHOTOGRAPHER.

    I even unloaded a Hassleblad, an 8x10, a few lenses and a boat load of 8x10 holders from Brent. I would have gotten his Lieca too, if I had the money. I guess that is what happens when people "go digital"

    He actually thought I was crazy to start using an 8x10, because materials would soon no longer be available-- that seems funny now.

    I remember writing a flaming letter to a few of the students I was closely associated with when I was at the school about what a mistake it was that they were tearing out their darkroom and replacing it with a computer lab. Often one of the things that first interests a young person about photography is the process-- think of how many people say that seeing the magic of their first print come up in the Dektol was what hooked them. What I fear that we are loosing is that kind of connection and love with the THING that we are doing or making. Think of how many people really love sitting at a computer. I guess I am preaching to the choir.

    This is something that Brent Wood wrote me in an email a few years ago when I told him how big of a mistake it was to replace enlargers and sinks with computers. I also asked if he had any equipment left over from tearing out his personal darkroom at home.

    Brent wrote, "I don't agree about my decision either. However if I did not go digital the photography department would have been closed. I had to design a building and do it spending 300,000 dollars less. The printing darkrooms had to go. We retained the ability to shoot and process film. Scanning and printing wet digital.

    My heart is still with wet process pyro. I don't know if you have seen what high end digital has to offer. High end digital is better than 8 x 10. It is sharper, more detail, far more controls and the image can hold 14 stops from white to black. Yes I love b&W film. Once you have seen the high end of digital it is very difficult to go back.

    Frank and I have both sold our personal darkrooms. I will look to see what I have left. I might have a little pyro left. I do not have any more holders. I think Frank has a print washer.

    Take care, keep your mind open and look at what the fine art world is doing with high end digital photography and art."
     
  16. per volquartz

    per volquartz Member

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    Why worry...?

    Painters did not burn their brushes when photography got on the scene.
    Artists still work on lithographic stone, in clay, stone, wood, steel, plastics, etc...as well as in platinum, silver gelatin etc...

    I am totally convinced that digital photography will show us new facets of art, never seen before. This will happen when computer based imaging finds "its own"...

    Why worry? Personally I will never get involved in serious digital photography. Only one lifetime - and that is already spoken for. However I celebrate artists who work in all kinds of media, and hope for the day when someone, somewhere will show the world an incredible image that touches your soul, yet is completely done in a digital manner...

    There is room for everyone! And just like the lithographic stone there will always be traditional darkrooms to be found...
     
  17. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I've just auctioned off an abandoned and neglected Mamiya Press Universal camera today real cheap, and that speaks a lot about how I deal with this trend...