I have few memories of my childhood. One that stands out was the time I watched my old man seal up the windows in the spare bedroom with tarpaper and build a long workbench next to the door. When I asked him what he was doing he just said, “Darkroom” and continued on with his amazing activities. I remember a very peculiar odor he explained simply as “Chemicals”, a truly magical clock that had glow-in-the-dark hands and ran backwards, and a big projector-looking thing. He showed me four trays with different ‘chemicals’ in them: developer, stop, fixer, water; and explained what each one did; he showed me what the projector-looking thing did, and he showed my where the photo paper was and told me to never let it see light until a picture was getting exposed on it. It was not long after that he invited me in for a rare moment of quality time–in perfect darkness. Exposing negative images was pretty cool, as was watching the ‘chemicals’ pull the image out of the white paper under a very dim red light. But the coolest trick was crafting an image on the paper using just my hands. First try was a Playboy Bunny silhouette (Oh yeah, Dad had some of the most amazing picture books), but after some experimenting I got pretty good at making twilight landscapes by allowing different parts of the paper to receive more or less light. Bit of a mental exercise because you have to conceive of the landscape as a negative and shade more the areas you want to be brighter, and you only knew for sure what it was going to look like after you tossed it into the developer. I can’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old.
In high school I took a photography class and was making double exposure portraits (3/4 portrait next to a profile) by the second day. By the end of the semester I had discovered the wonders of making exposures with wet negatives to make the final image look like it was viewed through a rainy window. Dad would have been proud.