IBW’s Darkroom


Zoe Toperosky (she/her), Editor

On the second floor, main hallway, room 204, this is not your typical classroom. Sitting across from the photography classroom is the infamous darkroom. The place where cellphones are not permitted, and the only light is the low red glow coming from the safelights. 

A darkroom is a place to make photographic prints and develop film. Film photography is an artform that has been around since 1887, and most people don’t recognize or remember it is still an important and influential art. 

Ida B. Wells High School has the unique opportunity for photography students to study the process of film photography; from learning the settings and basics of composing an image, to rolling and developing your shots, to turning your negatives into silver-gelatin prints. Experiencing this process gives you the chance to see the magic of photography and makes you a better photographer, at least according to other photographers. 

There are only a few schools in Portland Public Schools that have working darkrooms left in their buildings. With many high schools being remodeled recently, many have not included a darkroom into their design. Matthew Carlson, IBW’s photography teacher, wants to make sure the IBW remodel will continue to house a darkroom for future students to experience. 

“I think, the more students that take darkroom photography, I think the more students will understand the history process, and ultimately probably be more successful at taking photographs and falling in love with the process itself,” Carlson said.  

Nowadays, everything is about speed and digital work, everything is at your fingertips. But when you experience film photography, everything slows down and you are forced to think through and critically think about what you’re doing. 

“I think the benefit of doing darkroom work is that it just slows you down and ultimately makes you a better photographer,” Carlson said. 

Photography is a way to share your unique perspective with others, anyone can push a button to capture a moment, but when you step back and learn how to expose, and compose an image, you can truly capture something magical. 

Life is full of beautiful moments that we don’t want to miss, photographs are a great way to reminisce about those unforgettable moments. With the unique opportunity here at IBW to experience film and darkroom photography, take advantage of it and learn how to capture those beautiful moments in a more meaningful way. 

“Everybody sees the world in a different way and has a different perspective. So I think everybody is a photographer,” Carlson said. “It’s just a matter of learning the different processes to get successful photos.”