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The Importance of the Darkroom In Photographic Education

By: Edward Alfano

The basic principles underlying both digital and analog photography are the same. For the beginning photography student, the skill sets acquired through traditional darkroom practices allow the student to grasp the underlying meanings behind digital processes. The conceptual development that is encouraged may be taught using either traditional or digital approaches, yet there seems to be more reflection and critical visual integrity when the precious commodity of film is used rather than filling a 4 GIG card with less thoughtful visuals. A thorough understanding of the craft of traditional photography processes also allows the student to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of print quality and inherent beauty of the medium. Digital photography is a choice and reflects a decision based on ability to review while shooting, means of transmission of information, and output requirements or choices. Traditional photography, likewise has many choices, 35mm, 2 ΒΌ, 4X5, are important to consider before proceeding with the shooting assignment. A cost factor must also be considered. Enlargers and film cameras last 15-30 years if maintained. How long does the latest computer keep the classroom on the cutting edge, not to mention the latest software? What are the cost factors?

Edward Alfano
Edward Alfano has been shooting with infrared film for over 25 years. He began his professional career as a commercial photographer and continues to shoot commercially. A Professor of Art at California State University, Northridge since 1989, and currently head of the photography area, he acknowledges that the magic of photography still resides in his own work and he cherishes that "moment" when his students become excited by their own revelations.