More Teaching Moments Selected Memories of PSU Faculty

A Lesson In Photography

November 7th, 2012 by Heather

Henrieke I. Strecker Art

Winter sun reflected on a lake.

“You cannot step twice into the same river.” —Heraclitus

The river of time flows through the camera as time flows through us. We are the camera obscura where we lift, layer by layer, the treasures of life, slowly bringing to light what we have found inside those dark chambers.

These treasures, or precious tools, help us to move forward on the path. They become our teachers and life-companions for a while.

Summer 2012.

Eight students enrolled in the course “The Art of Photography.” It involved wet darkroom work. —No chance to give a printer the job! (Yes, we still do darkroom work! “Film is not dead, it just smells funny!”)

We do not “take, capture or shoot!” That’s what I tell students. Rather, we make images. It requires a different beginning and thinking process.

To every student I handed a roll of 35mm film. Then I introduced camera functions and sensitivity (ISO) of film. The first assignment focused on water. The photography students were challenged to consider the presence of water and also slowness in their daily lives, literally and metaphorically. “Take pictures.” The purpose was to increase students’ awareness of the uses of water, and also its pollution. At the end of the course we made a book. (Volume I and Volume II are available here: www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/2896452)

For the next class each student was asked to bring back the roll of 35mm film for the developing process. Before entering the darkroom one student came up to me. “There is nothing on my film,” she said with great disappointment. Unfortunately she did not realize that one does not remove the film from the light-tight container before developing.

That student taught me a lesson! My introduction to the “Art of Photography” class now includes this basic instruction: “Please do not open the film container and remove your exposed film roll until the developing process is done.”