I love receiving holiday cards. I remember always rushing to rip open the cards that came to my parents’ house at Christmastime and eagerly hanging them up on the back of the front door for the season. There’s a simple joy in getting something in the mail that isn’t a bill. It gives you that warm fuzzy feeling that hey, someone is thinking about you this holiday season.
And so, inspired by one of my favourite photographers, I decided to not only send holiday cards this year, but to shoot them on black and white film and process and print them in my own darkroom.
I bought a darkroom set (enlarger, trays, chemicals, and some leftover paper!) from a photographer friend of mine, Jason, who was paring down his studio and wanted to get rid of it. I payed a grand total of $75, promptly put it in my dad’s garage, and there it sat for 2 years while I was in school (who has free time in school??). I finally moved into an apartment with a large-ish bathroom, two sinks, and most importantly- no windows, so, I decided it was high time to set up the room and figure this thing out (again).
I haven’t processed black and white film since the first semester in college, so let’s just say that there were a few panicked moments and stressful days as I re-taught myself the process. I had to re-shoot because my film got loaded incorrectly and the film roll ripped, but after one of the longest 19 minutes of my life, I opened the canister and there it was, a correctly developed roll of images for me to print.
And so, I set to work. First re-teaching myself how to work an enlarger, make a contact sheet, and actually develop the paper properly. Which, admittedly, took a couple of days tweaking. But I finally got it, chose my frame to print, and got to it, spending one full day in the darkroom printing 45 copies of the image.
Next I dried them overnight on a window screen from my parent’s house set up over my bathtub (we’re really high-tech here at Magic Box), and flattened them under some of the masters of photography for the whole next day. While they flattened, I got to work using my 1960s Olympia Monica typewriter to type out addresses and print return address labels.
Then I spent an afternoon hand numbering and signing the images and stuffing envelopes with the holiday greeting; lighting a Christmas tree scented candle and listening to ALL the Christmas music, of course.
The Text That Accompanies the Print
As December draws to a close, I always find myself reflecting on the past year. For me, 2017 was a roller coaster, hitting me in the face with some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows. So when I look back on this year, I look at the lows, taking some lessons learned, moving forward, and leaving some in the dust. But then I focus on the highs, thinking about how thankful I am for them.
I’m thankful for my friends, who I learned more than ever this year I so dearly need. I am thankful for my career and how it’s progressing. I am thankful that I got to see spring twice at opposite ends of the year and the planet, spending time in Italy in May, and then New Zealand in October and November. I am thankful for the laughter and the happy tears and the great views from where I’ve stood under so many blankets of stars.
This is a limited edition resin paper print of a reflection. A reflection that contains me, my arm which is pressing the shutter down on my parents’ old Pentax K1000 35mm film camera, the first camera I ever shot on. The film was hand processed by me, printed in my darkroom, and numbered and signed for you.
Thank you for coming along with me on this wild and crazy ride and I hope that you will cherish this print as a thank you for being a part of it.
Happy New Year from Magic Box Photo