I am reluctant to give up the chemical. I've talked to the kids and they
love the darkroom. It's an experience like none other. It's a touchy/feely
thing that the computer can't offer.
They love and hate the smell; they love and hate getting their fingers in
it---- they love the connection the computer can not offer.
I think the difference is that the computer gives results without the
feeling of having a "hand" in it. The chemical is magical: the digital has
become a matter of fact.
If we are going to uphold that it is important to maintain traditional
skills to train artists, then I think that is important in photo as well.
Software like PhotoShop offer the techniques of basic darkroom skills--
burning, dodging, contrast control, masking... If you know it in the
darkroom first, it makes the electronic manipulation all the more
I'm not sure at what point we give up the 'old' and totally embrace the
new... certainly it should not be for budgetary concerns.
What I love about the darkroom is that the kids are so taken with the
magic-- so proud of the skill---- and what I love about the darkroom is that
I see kids truly working and interacting together, helping each other
what I see as a true group activity. All I see in the computer lab is kids
struggling with a machine--- they don't smell it or feel it they just
produce and too often that production is
"noise" made by hitting arbitrary buttons without knowing just what
decisions were made. That may be legitimate- but ask a photo student what a
filter is and ask some kid just hitting buttons what a filter is - and
determine what the learning is.
I wonder sometimes why programs are considering going totally digital are
music programs doing the same? Certainly music can be produced without any
traditional instruments but are we eliminating instrument instruction?