Fayette photo class still uses darkroom 11.28

Written by David Green.

When Fayette art class students head into the darkroom with a roll of film to process, they’re taking a step into the past.

Developer, stop bath, fixer, water wash—hardly anyone follows that routine anymore.

Instructor Ryan Colegrove knows he’s teaching the proverbial dinosaur, but it’s still a good beast to have around. Even in Fayette’s art classes, however, film is probably heading toward extinction. When classes move into the new school, digital photography will take over.

Former art teacher Tom Spiess remembers starting up the school darkroom in 1971.

“We had a Yankee enlarger, three trays and a developing tank,” he said.

At the time, the darkroom wasn’t at all a permanent fixture.

“We used the girls rest room across the hall from the boiler room,” Spiess said.

During the class period when the darkroom was in use, a student would be posted outside—both to warn a visitor that she might want to use another rest room and also to prevent an open door from exposing film or photo paper to light.

Spiess has the satisfaction of knowing that over the years a few of his students took their basic skills with them and went on to use photography after graduation.

It wasn’t a class for everyone, but many students found it fascinating.

“Some of them would get intellectually involved in the process,” he said. “Even kids who were generally considered trouble-makers were paying attention.”

The magical process of watching an image appear on a white sheet of paper captured the imagination of most students, but not everyone was comfortable in the darkroom.

“I used to tell them, ‘If you go into the darkroom, your hands are going to smell like feet,’” Spiess said.

Spiess remembers that Fayette was the first school in the county to have a darkroom and Colegrove figures it’s one of the last.

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