Vive La Darkroom! : The Picture Show A new exhibition at the National Gallery of Art will take you into the darkroom, exposing you to processes from daguerreotypes to chromogenic prints.
NPR logo Vive La Darkroom!

Vive La Darkroom!

I recently had the luck of finding a small community art center darkroom where I can spend Tuesday nights sealed away from the buzz of the real world. Only a darkroom can afford that sort of intimate seclusion — where even cell phone light could be catastrophic. Things could go awry at any given step, so it requires constant attention, deliberation and patience. "Are you crazy?" my father the darkroom apostate asks, perplexed by my decision to master the darkroom as he makes strides with a digital camera.

I eschew these paternal inquiries — vive la darkroom

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The exhibition is a random collection of works, from an Alfred Stieglitz carbon print, to a gelatin silver print by Robert Frank, to an Andy Warhol Polaroid. It seems to be a historical introduction to the darkroom — to the many, many elaborate processes that have evolved over the past century or two — for those who may never step foot in one. But also, sadly, and perhaps prematurely, it seems like a eulogy for a dying art. I, for one, don't plan on stopping my Tuesday night ritual anytime soon. And I can only hope that there are enough of us vampires out there to preserve and perpetuate the darkroom.

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