Photography Isn't All About Black And White
I was very little when I used a kaleidoscope for myself. I was instantly enthralled. Not just by the vivid colours, but also by the patterns that emerged and changed with each turn of a hand.
It gave me a deep and abiding appreciation for hues and for symmetry – all so crucial for a photographer of any level of experience.
When I was 13, I embarked on a great voyage of understanding photography that was to have very far-reaching consequences. I was in my first year in the Upper Division (senior school) at St Joseph’s College, North Point, Darjeeling.
Each student could elect to join two activity groups, in addition to all the sport we played right round the year. It’s interesting, in retrospect, to look back on my choices – my first preference was the photography group and my second was the horticulture group.
My interest in flowers, sparked by growing up in a huge home with a rambling, colourful garden, is still an abiding passion that I have passed on to the Authorbloglets. And my interest in photography, kick-started by the joy of using that early box Brownie, has taken me to many amazing places around the world.
For someone who had barely entered my teens, they were pretty significant choices.
So that year, I learned the intricacies of using a darkroom. I learnt how to mix chemicals in the correct proportions and where to place the trays. I learnt the value of safety in a confined space. I learnt how to work in the soft glow of the red light in that room. I learnt how to develop films.
I learnt how to use one of those beautiful, angled, sliding enlargers. I learnt how to print images. I learnt how to cut the emulsion-coated paper. I learnt how to ensure that contrast was always maintained in the prints we produced. And I learnt how to use the fixer tray so that the black areas on each print didn’t turn brown.
It was a world that I approached with great enthusiasm. At the time, I didn’t realise (and not surprisingly, given my tender age) that the world of photography would hold several keys in my life.
Back then, of course, it was all black-and-white photography in the realm of spool film. As I grew up, I realised that colour photography, even though it was so much more expensive in those days, was just as intriguing.
Yes, I appreciate that the classical masters of black-and-white photography defined an era to be cherished. But equally crucial is the appreciation that technology has changed so rapidly, especially in the last five years, that the world of colour is what defines our surroundings.
My darkroom experience in the many-sided art that is true photography is precisely the reason I do not edit images or use filters with my camera - the challenge is to produce an acceptable image of decent quality without any of the electronic equivalents of the darkroom era.
So it's just me and a camera in the outdoors - and it does not get more fulfilling than that.
Those early years taught me many facets of the art, but I know this – no one can tell you the correct approach to photography. You have to define your own path. You assimilate. You learn.
You appreciate all the advice that the experts give you, face-to-face, in books and on websites. But the true definition of art is in establishing the boundaries for yourself.
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