By Chuck Woodbury
Written in January, 2012
The photo is of me in my first motorhome printing black and white photos in my portable darkroom. I snapped the photo in the late ’80s with a self-timer, back when I was roaming the rural West as a freelance writer.
I believe I have shown you this picture before. But with Kodak’s bankruptcy announcement last week, I got to thinking about my “film” days.
I loved that darkroom. It was cheap with no frills. But it did the job.
With it, I could send my stories, complete with photos, from just about anywhere. I was too impatient to wait until I returned home, and, truth be told, I needed to get paid fast because I was usually on the brink of financial collapse. Besides, printing photos was good entertainment in those days without a TV, and before the Internet was invented. At first, I wrote with a manual typewriter (torture!).
I would typically set up the darkroom once or twice a week, providing I could find a dark campground. All I needed was an electric hookup. Having running water was nice, but not necessary beyond a gallon to mix with the photo chemicals and later for a quick rinse of the prints.
I’d work into the wee hours of the morning, often marveling at how, in the middle of nowhere, I could print photos for newspapers and magazines. As I worked, I would sip cheap beer, listen to my Walkman, and sing like a giant canary. I remember being very happy. My neighbors would have never guessed what was going on next door.
SOMETIMES AFTER PRINTING for a couple of hours, I’d step outside to stretch. It would be dark and dead silent. I’d glance back at the motorhome, which was pretty in the night with the dim orange glow of the safe light visible through the open door. I would feel great joy knowing I was living my dream of being a writer on the road — going where I wanted, when I wanted, and choosing my own stories.
These days, I have a laptop computer and an aircard so I can access the Internet. I have a cell phone, TV, iPod and iPad. For entertainment I can watch a DVD, or video chat with friends and family. There’s no more darkroom: with my digital camera I can snap a photo and share it with the world in a few minutes. Same with videos.
I love being on the road as much as ever, and I love the new technology. But I miss my darkroom.