darkroom magic: finding purpose in retirement

finding purpose in the darkroom - Tate Modern Turbine Hall reflections


I went back to the darkroom last Thursday after three weeks away and it felt good.  The slow pace at which everything happens grounds me.  It’s like a form of meditation.  

Nothing can be rushed.  Experimenting with focus, filters, timing; waiting for a slice of the image to appear on the test strip in the developer, it all takes as long as it takes.  Tweaking everything again (and again) to try to get closer to how you want the final print to look is a slow process.

It’s a magical moment when everything comes together and the image appearing on that recently blank piece of paper in the chemical bath is exactly what you were hoping for.

Of course it doesn’t always work – there are so many things that can go wrong.  And sometimes you realise you’re never going to achieve what you wanted with a particular negative and that you’ve wasted two hours trying.

Except that the time isn’t really wasted.  Although it’s wonderful to produce a final print you’d be happy to exhibit, the real point is in the process.  

I’ve written here about the benefits of getting into “flow” – those times when you’re so deeply engaged in doing something that time flies (or seems to stand still).  This happens to me sometimes when I’m taking photographs or in the darkroom. 

It’s so important in retirement to have things that feed your soul and give your life meaning.  For me, exercising my creativity through photography and working in the darkroom is something which brings passion and purpose into my life.

When we’re younger we generally have work or family to occupy us and provide purpose. In retirement we may come face to face with what can feel like a huge void.  

If you don’t have a sense of purpose in your retirement, it’s worth spending time thinking about what you want to do.  You may find some helpful ideas in my previous post while this excellent article  Finding your sense of purpose in retirement will provide plenty of food for thought. 

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