It was nighttime. My dad slowly drew the kitchen curtain closed as I watched snowflakes slowly falling past the kitchen window of our eighth floor apartment. “We need to make sure we keep all the light out otherwise it won’t work”, he said as he clicked on the little square contraption that flooded half of the kitchen with a red glow. I was 6, maybe 7 years old, sitting on a high-chair, appearing to be patiently waiting. Really, I was overwhelmed with excitement. My mom, sitting nearby with her head resting on the hand propped up by her elbow showed a hint of a smirk, as if she knew something I didn’t – something which made her impartial to the experience, but at the same time highly in tune and awaiting my reaction. I got up and got closer standing on my tip-toes and leaning over the side of my dad as he placed the first set of negatives into the enlarger and turned on the bulb. There it was: a blurry inverted image of something that resembled me. “We first need to focus the image,” and as he turned the knob, first forward then backwards then a little forward again, the image came into focus. I could hear the wind howling outside the window, but inside that kitchen it was warm and cozy and with my parents by my side I was enjoying this moment. My dad flipped off the enlarger, placed a piece of photo sensitive paper on the palette and then briefly turned the light back on. “Now comes the fun part,” he said, as he placed the paper into the developer bath. Dull ammonia like aroma filled the air; it was a new smell for me. As he rocked the container back and fourth, through the subtle red glow of the kitchen light I saw my face begin to appear on that paper and with each rocking of the container back and fourth slowly get darker. I couldn’t believe my eyes; it was magical – one moment the paper was empty, and the next, an image appearing as if out of thin air. I looked over at my mom and realized that she was now grinning—a response to the strong look of amazement I must have showed.
The above narrative took place in Kishinev, a city in Moldova where I was born and inhabited until my family immigrated to the United States shortly after I turned 10. There were no pharmacies where one could drop off a roll of film to pick up an hour later, fully developed. If you were lucky enough to know some people who can get you film, photo paper, enlarger, and all the other equipment needed to do this craft, you were a part of a select few. My dad was one such lucky man, and I was his son.
Although some of the magic is gone now with the advent of 1 hour developing and digital photography, a lot of the essence of what fascinates me about photography remains: it is still the act and practice of freezing a moment in time: putting a bookmark in the narrative of your life to later serve as a way to transplant yourself back to that captured moment seconds, hours, or years down the road. And boy how different can all those moments seem as you experience them through the eyes of increased maturity and wisdom, as the years pass by. Then of course there is this nagging feeling of doubting whether a thought is real or imagined – photographs dispel all such doubts; you know that the people who have passed on and are no longer physically present, at the very least, did at one point exist, and are not simply figments of our imagination or intense dreams.
This is my photo blog: a glimpse at what I’ve seen, and places I’ve been. If you like what you see, stay a while. If there are things you wish to ask, don’t hesitate—I’ll do my best to help. Your comments are always welcome, especially on photos that particularly strike a chord with you. One last thing: below is a scan of the picture—currently in the possession of my parents—that first appeared to me over 20 years ago on that cold cozy winter night.