On Photography

If you were, say, an evil mastermind, and wanted to develop a course of study to cause people to become bitter, shriveled husks of their former selves, you very well may develop photography. Let me explain why.

First, you spend hours of almost every day in a nearly pitch black (for developing paper) or absolutely pitch black (for developing film) room. Take away the photo work and close the door, and you’ve created a pretty nasty solitary confinement cell. Some scientists think it is bad for people not to get a certain amount of sun, so what a dark room’s safe lights do to you is beyond me.

Add to this the way the system causes you to wish your life away in 2, 3, 5, 8 minutes increments (because, truly, not even the Buddha himself could find peace or fulfillment in agitating a tray of developing solution for 2 minutes) and you’ve found a way to teach your students how not to appreciate the moment.

Finally, for good measure, throw in a little anti-Pavlovian torture to make it really stick. Pavlov, as you may already know, trained dogs to associate an external stimulus (a bell) with food, to the point that ringing the bell would cause them to drool. However, the opposite can be done; randomly administer shocks to an animal, and they will, in their confusion, sink into a deep depression. Photo is similar; each teacher has a long list of very specific procedures, which would be ok, except that every teacher’s list is different, and many are contradictory.

Ironically, though, I’m not writing this because I am frustrated with photography. Actually, I’m really excited about the next project, and I still get a lot of joy out of it. I was just wondering lately why it is that all the senior photo majors seem to be bitter, withered husks of their former selves. So I guess now I know. Oh well.

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