Saturday, December 17, 2011

Photography as my hobby - Part 2 Developing skills

My dad was a photography enthusiast. In his days, he dabbled in cinematography and was an avid outdoor photographer. He picked up his skills working for a professional studio in Chinatown in his youth and it became his life long passion. I guess his enthusiasm rubbed off a little on me but I wasn't all that interested at that time, I remembered.

I became a little more interested only after he set up a little darkroom in our small flat at Princess Elizabeth Estate. He converted the tiny bathroom into his darkroom. That resulted in our toilet having to become the toilet cum bathroom.

As a young boy, I was fascinated with how the mixture of chemicals together brought out the images on paper. Voila, photographs!  The standard 'recipe' at that time was a formula called Kodak D-76.  To make the formula was like a chemistry lesson. You had to weigh chemicals in the correct proportion, mix it with filtered water and ensure correct temperatures using ice. In those days, there were no pre-mixed formulas. You had to mix your own developers, stop-baths and fixers. It was a skill that would become useful as I grew into my teens years.

My own darkroom was similar to this set up.

In my teens, the family moved out of the tiny flat into a house at Fuyong Estate.
Having more space now, I persuaded my dad to build me a new darkroom. It was purposed built with proper ventilation and running water and of course, completely light-tight.

I had a modern colour enlarger called the Durst F60.
You learned to 'read' a colour negative and correct color before printing.

In the meanwhile, as my interest grew, I picked up more skills along the way.
I attended colour photography and processing courses ran by the Lembaga Gerakan Pelajaran Dewasa. How many of you can remember that term Lembaga?
The LGPD was the Adult Education Board and they had a studio and darkroom facilities at the Fort Canning Cultural Centre. I was trained by Mr Wang Su Fah, a local photographer.

I also joined the Photographic Society of Singapore and mingled with young people like David Tay, Foo Tee Jun and Yip Cheong Fun. You may not recognize these names now but they were mini celebrities in the local photography scene those days.  Joining special interest groups allowed you to pick up tips and pointers from the more experienced. However, I left after some time as I found that most tended to focus on the arty-farty stuff which was a genre which I disliked. Their work tended to look like chinese art in photos. My own preference was for more candid social events. My idol at that time was a German named Helmut Newton.

Apologies if this article sounds more like an autobiography.
My next blog will focus on the equipment I collected and then finally gave away.

Related links:
Part 1 - The beginnings
Part 3 - Been There Done That

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