I first saw an image rise up from a pan of Kodak D-76 in 1995. I cried. It was a miracle, and I had created it. Well, Nikon, Kodak, and a bunch of chemicals had created it. The blank 8 x 10 piece of paper morphed into a black and white image of a freckled girl becoming a woman. I didn’t realize the experience would be so personal, so intimate. I needed my own darkroom. I picked up a newspaper and searched for a used enlarger. I found a 30 year old, 3 foot tall, Omega D6 on sale by an 85 year old man. He sold me his entire darkroom: light box, loupes, timer, safelight, tongs, easel, and enlarger.
My father used a Rolleicord, a twin lens, medium format camera. The Rolleicord was used by amateur photographers in the years between World War I and II. Invented in Germany, the camera captured images on 120 film producing a 2 ¼ x 2 ¼ inch negative. The camera took sharp photos with good bokeh. My father probably bought his Rolleicord just before he left for Asia. In today’s money, the new camera cost $800. It was an expensive investment for a newly married Navy First Lieutenant.
Stationed in China from 1936 to 1938, my father took photos of Shanghai and Hong Kong a few months before the Japanese bombed in 1937. A black and white photo of Chinese junks with triangular sails hung on the wall of our 1950’s rambler. It refashioned our prosaic one-story home into an adventure in Asia. I didn’t know where the boats were going, but I pretended my Daddy took one of those boats on a trip and would someday sail back to me. My father never really came back, but he did leave me his camera.