Darkrooms, Heirlooms, and Kiddy Chopsticks

My daily work in the darkroom back in high school year book class has continued to pay off in all kinds of ways…I just never quite thought of this one. Sure, it helps me understand how to work on my photos in digital post processing. And yes, the love of the negative leaves me with no choice but raw over JPG. And without a doubt, there is something in those chemicals soaking into your finger tips that makes you a better photographer…or at least a more interesting one.

However, I never would have imagined my boss would hand me her one surviving photo of her two parents, faded, cracked into a strange and very non-conformist geometric shape, taped together from a suspicious rift right between the couple, and caked with a darkening grime which had presumably become a part of the photograph. To top it off, she is going to use it on the cover of the book she just finished. Enter Long-Since-Retired Darkroom Man!

So, there it was in my hands, and I had a choice before me. Do I just scan it and play with it on the computer, or dare I choose the best way by healing it of its most pressing physical maladies first, before all the supposed high-tech magic. The whole thing looks like it is about to shatter, like so many of the windows in my aged house, and I found out quickly there was no way to carry it, even in its blue, manila envelope (can it be both blue and manila?) in which I felt comfortable.

On top of that, dare I pour water over it and start rubbing off the grime? If I rub off the emulsion, the picture part of it, I will be left with nothing but the plasticy paper backing. That equals bad.

So, not being too well known for playing things safe (that is code for “not so smart”), I took it to the staff bathroom sink at work, and cleaned off one corner. It was a clear and shiny success! So, just in case, I dropped by the scanner and copied a high-resolution scan in it’s initial state, and carried it home.

Once everybody was put to bed, except me, I pulled out my boss’s photo and made my way to the kitchen sink. I struggled against the tape on the back, which had been holding it together in the middle, but finally won out. Then I started the flow of water. Again, because I do retain a few wits about me, I started rubbing around the outside edges.

A Boy and His Trainer Chopsticks
A Boy and His Trainer Chopsticks

All went well, and in a few minutes, I had the dust of the decades removed. The trick now was finding a way to hang the two halves to dry. Well, I had not really thought that far ahead. I know I used to use clothespins, but I did not actually make it far enough in the pre-planning to realize that I do not have any clothespins, and having just moved house, even if I did, I do not know that I could have found them.

So, after trying my daughter’s hair clips or maybe just letting them dry on our cookie rack, the chopsticks the nearby disk rack gave me inspiration. My boy had received this weird little clip that holds chopsticks together so they could be used as a sort of trainer chopsticks. They can be set to hold one end of the chopsticks quite tightly together. Those were dedicated to hold up the mother.

Then, at a total loss and feeling quite ready for bed (though I guess not too ready, because here I am writing a blog entry about it all), I sought inspiration from my son’s toy tool box. His plastic C-clamp is doing an excellent job of holding the father now.

So, tomorrow, all I need do is scan the physically cleaned photos, piece them together in the software darkroom (probably using GIMP), and do a little cloning to cover the cracks. Then, I will have me a wonderfully benevolent boss on my hands. Not that I am doing it because she is my boss and I am slave to her commands, but rather, because she is a wonderful boss and I would go to any lengths to please her.

Hmm, sounds like a nice picture of the kind of relationship we could have with God. Just saying.

Our broken cookie rack, the plastic C-clamp, and the kiddy chopsticks are somehow a fitting environment for the broken but cherished family photo(s).
Cooper Strange Written by:

One Comment

  1. 2011-02-24

    This post was supposed to be about the process of getting my hands wet again, but it has evolved into much more now. My boss just mentioned, when I asked her a few questions about how to best format the photo so it could be added to her book cover, that she would like for me to do the whole book cover. Now the fun is really starting!

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