Kyla Duffy ’18 shares her ideas about film photography in a digital world. Her film photos illustrate the process of developing film in the Cage, where, as a student worker, she helped other students discover the magic of film.
The digital age has brought a new wave of photography. Today, nearly everyone has access to a camera, and photographs can be taken, reviewed, and shared in a matter of seconds. The idea of taking a photo without the ability to review it instantaneously becomes more foreign as technology advances. Even those who remember the days of 35mm cameras and enlargers often see the process as an outdated memory. In an age when everyone sees themselves as photographers, film photography might seem an art form of the past, slowly dying as newer, faster technology takes its place. But at the photo lab in URI’s Fine Arts Center, known affectionately as the Cage, the art of film photography is very much alive. For those looking to explore this artistic process, the Cage is equipped with tools for developing and printing black-and-white film, providing students with a portal to the past.
As a former student and a Cage employee, I fell in love with the art of film photography. When I took my first darkroom class, I didn’t think I would be able to capture the beauty I sought in my images under the limitations of black-and-white. But as I continued, my appreciation for black-and-white photography blossomed. I began to discover that color was not necessarily the most important factor in creating a remarkable image. Instead, I began exploring contrast, discovering that I could find inspiration in something as simple as the deep richness of a shadow or the subtle glint of a highlight. Working in film has also pushed me to put more thought into every shot I take. Since the average roll of film allows you to capture only 36 photos, every shot is valuable. Without the ability to immediately review my images, I quickly learned the importance of contemplating the composition of a photo before taking the shot. The constraints of film photography forced me to improve my skills as an artist.
While digital photography continues to grow and evolve, the art of film photography should not be forgotten. Even as technology advances, there will always be something magical about standing under the glow of those amber lights and watching a blank piece of paper slowly turn into your very own work of art. And at the URI photo lab, the darkroom will continue to hold magic for those who seek it. •