Home Features Developing in the darkroom with Doug Highland

Developing in the darkroom with Doug Highland


By Dylan Head
Photo Editor

The room is dark, but class is still in session.

Students huddle around trays of chemicals, squinting in the dim red glow of safelights to make out the images coming to life before them.

This room, specially built to be sealed from all outside light, is where students will be taught the technical skills to be able to enlarge, develop, and produce high quality images from film shot on 35mm and larger cameras.

All work done to develop prints in the room is physical; there are no computers, no photoshop, and no Ctrl+Z to fix mistakes.

Leading the class is full-time Photography professor Doug Highland. After graduating from Cal Poly with a degree in Photography, Highland worked for 5 years at a custom black and white printing shop before beginning his teaching career.

It is Highland’s teaching that  develops these photo students into artists that are able to produce high quality content in the film medium. The class actively engages in critiques of both well known artist’s work and the work of their peers. Highland explained that this serves to bring everyone together technically, regardless of their previous experience in other photo classes.

“My goal is to create a large, cohesive group.” Highland said.

Students in Highland’s class echoed these sentiments. Both Ian Morse, a Networking Administration major, and Erik Potter, a Chemical Engineering major, explained that they took Intermediate Photography because of their experience with Highland in their Beginning Photography class.

“If Doug wasn’t teaching it, I don’t think I would be taking another photography class.” Potter said.

“#Douglife.” concluded Morse.

Students in the class create images using various cameras and darkroom techniques, from enlarging film from a 35 millemeter camera to an 8-by-ten inch prints, to shooting with a 4-by-5 inch large-format camera and printing images as large as twenty-by-forty inches.

Under Highland’s watchful eye, they wash their prints in a series of chemical baths. Developers, stop baths, and fixers are used to bring the student’s art to life in the exposures.

Creativity when producing content is stressed in the class. Rather than developing one image for an assignment, students focus on producing a series of images that communicate what the artist wants the pieces to say.

Highland says his end goal for students taking the class is that “A student in Intermediate Algebra could become interested in a subject and produce a work that communicates that to the artists.”