Twenty years and roughly two months ago, I started my first photography class at Tulane University. I had been trying to get into the introductory photo class for three semesters, but it kept filling up with seniors who had a higher registration priority than me, seniors who wanted a “fun” elective to finish out their last year. I had to personally meet with the dean of my college and express how strongly I wanted to get into this class and possibly devote my degree to this study. I don’t recall the specifics of what I said to her, but I guess my urgency or pitifulness was convincing. We registered for classes by phone then, and I still very clearly remember standing near the bathroom door to my dorm room, looking down at the carpet, as I finally heard the computerized voice say, “Art Studio, one, three, five, has been added to your schedule”. After what felt like years of rejection to my 19 year old mind, I was finally on my way.
It’s difficult to explain to my students now what it meant to get into a darkroom, to actually learn what was still deemed the only way to work with the photographic medium. A year prior I had been given a scanner for my computer, and I voraciously scanned color film photographs I had taken with a point and shoot camera, manipulating them with Paint Shop Pro, constructing narratives that were both angsty and satisfying. I received my first copy of Photoshop (7.0) from a guy I had started talking to on ICQ who was kind enough to burn me a CD and send it through the mail. For as much as I loved laboring over these images on the computer, to work in the darkroom was a whole other level. It was the realm of professionals, shrouded in mystery with so much to learn, and to finally have a space in this class, to feel like I was finally worthy of being able to study the subject rather than having that computerized telephone voice reject me over and over… it still feels just as significant of a milestone now as it did then.
Silver gelatin print
8″ x 10″