Today’s Assignment

It’s easy to get into a writing rut when you’re spending so much time writing about or for one thing. I’ve been busy writing for my book but in an effort to keep my brain nimble I’m also peppering in work based on writing prompts from the groups or pages I’m a member of.

Today, I saw one from Writer’s Digest that piqued my interest as a former photography and darkroom instructor. The prompt is this:

Your character is a photography student using a darkroom. While their film processes, they realize that they’ve captured something that they hadn’t intended on… what is it? Word count of 500 max.

sections of camera films hanging in red room

Sounds good to me; here we go!

Found in the Darkroom

Beth was excited to process the film she had shot on the class trip downtown. The assignment was to ‘capture pattern and texture that we see but don’t notice’ and she felt she had nailed it. She concentrated on details in the buildings and sidewalks, filling her frames with repetitive stonework, bricks, and gravel.

Shooting was great but she loved processing film; she felt she was opening a Christmas present every time because although she knew what she thought her images would look like, there was always a surprise. Sometimes good, sometimes not so much. Either way, the anticipation was addictive.

Working quietly, she finished processing the film, dried the negatives and prepared to make a contact sheet. Cutting the film into the neat, five-frame strips she was pleased with what she saw. Not bad, she thought to herself, becoming even more eager to print off the sheet.

She moved her work to one of the available enlargers and made her contact sheet. Taking the still-white paper to the chemical baths she thought, here comes the best part. And as always, as she gently moved the paper around in the developer with her tongs, the images started to appear. The contrast was great, the exposure too. She was pleased! She moved the paper through the stop and rinse and found a spot on the strings to dry. Standing back and looking at her work, she was proud of how much she had improved since the beginning of the year when her images were just muddy shades of grey rather than the sharp images she saw before her now. Then she noticed it. She tilted her head to line up with the diagonally hanging sheet and looked closer.

“What the…?” I have to look at this in the light. Beth grabbed the still dripping sheet and went out of the darkroom into the class. After a moment of her eyes adjusting from the deep red light of the darkroom, she saw it even more clearly. There, in her close-up image of the gravel path leading to the park, the word PEACE spelled out with larger stones surrounded by the small pea gravel around them. The word jumped off the page despite being a small, negative-sized image. She hadn’t even noticed it when she took the picture, she was concentrating on focus and exposure so much she didn’t even see the message she was capturing.

Beth hurried back through the door to the darkroom, grabbed the negative, and made two enlargements. She posted one on the board by the Student Union and took the other to her grandmother. Beth’s mind was filled with the stories her Bubbe had shared of her childhood in occupied Paris and her eventual escape to Switzerland. Beth wanted to give her a small token of how much she appreciated what her Bubbe had been through and that still, peace finds a way.  

2 responses to “Today’s Assignment”

  1. Heartwarming ♥ I’d like to see that photo. For some reason it wasn’t clear to me: is the word PEACE spelled out with the large stones, or in the negative space of the pea gravel?

    • It’s a stock photo of negatives hanging in a darkroom. I looked for an image with stones/gravel but no luck I’m afraid. Thanks for reading, as always!! xoxo

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