Developing pictures

I’m sitting in an airport in Doha. It’s 3:22 am local time. I’ve been traveling for about fourteen days. I say “about” because I’m too tired to do the math or to care about the specifics.

In the old days of photography, images were captured on film, strips of  a kind of plastic that was fed through a camera. A dozen or two or three dozen times, the film would be exposed to light and whatever was happening in front of the camera. When we reached the end of the roll, we would rewind the film into a little canister and remove it from the camera.

And then we would develop it.

lakefewa-1Thirty years ago, I developed it myself sometimes. Other times we would send it out for developing and wait for a few days to find out how the images looked. Those who have ever been in a darkroom, the space where we developed the film, know that the image actually develops, emerges in response to chemicals. And it can be over or underdeveloped if we don’t monitor the time closely.

In the latter days of film, we switched from developing to processing. Machines made the process automatic. But somehow, the wonder of developing disappeared.

I share this somewhat disjointed metaphor because I am having people already asking me about the trip I have been on. What have I learned? What stories do I have? Am I different?

My first response was that I am still processing. But I realized that I am actually developing the images that my eyes and ears and mind and heart have been exposed to. It is going to take some time. Even as I sort through the several hundred digital images I took, I will be looking for stories.

And sleeping. That’s first.

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