Jan 3, 2009

Developing, R.Standley

By Ryan Standley

As a junior in a small town high school, I worked at a photography studio. My boss kept himself busy shooting senior portraits in the backroom while I stayed in the smelly red-lit darkroom developing black-and-white passport photos and wide-angle football shots, hallways in passing, dances, and student club pics for the yearbook committee.

Our film developing process began with my boss, Tim, creating a negative by unrolling film in complete darkness, wetting it in chemicals, and hanging it to dry. Later I'd run the dried strip through a single frame projector, flashing light onto white photo paper, removing the paper from its frame, submerging it in starter bath till the image appeared, then stop bath, and wash. The photos were laid out to dry on a table, no clothespin line like the movies.

The job was monotonous till I developed a roll of my boss's naked wife. The pregnant, nipple-concealing pose, popularized in the nineties by Demi Moore and Vanity Fair, covered two rolls, 24 exposures each, including several obvious nipple and hair slips. The unappealing pregnant belly was cropped off. Black and white, shining wet, topless with a serious expression and slicked back hair. The copies I made for my personal files were openly drying on the table when my boss suddenly walked in the darkroom. Tim saw the pictures and froze. He slowly turned green, opened his mouth to speak, barely grunted, and quickly left the room.
After seeing his reaction I felt guilty and ripped up all the prints and went home. Tim and I never spoke of it again, and I found a new job a month later. I forgot all about the embarrassing situation until I saw old Tim at the grocery store the other day. He introduced me to his beautiful wife, and his son, who was twelve, and I suddenly felt very old.