Ever wondered about the dark room?

The dark room…

Have you ever wondered about the bizarre cylindrical structure next to the art studios? It’s an entrance to what is called a dark room.

The dark room is used for traditional photography. “Photo-graph” means “light image.” Using light and light-sensitive materials, photographers create photo images.

In the dark room, photographers work with those light-sensitive materials without light pollution. The room is set up with main lights one can turn off for absolute darkness and safety lights that still let one work with photosensitive materials.

The dark room- Pierce Laveran ’24

The Sink


With temperature controls, the sink moderates the water temperature of the faucet, which affects outcomes when mixed with different chemical solutions used in traditional photography. It also stores trays of chemicals used for printing photos/silk screens on various photosensitive materials.

The Yellow Light


While still visible to the human eye, the yellow light does not tamper with silk screen printings. By increasing visibility, it functions as a safety light source for the silk screen artist to navigate around the room. However, the yellow light does not prevent light pollution for film rolls.

The Red Light


Remember those dark red rooms you saw in movies? While still visible to the human eye, the red light does not tamper with traditional photo films. By increasing visibility, it functions as a safety light source for the photographer to navigate around the room for various procedures.

The Entrance


The rotating, cylindrical entrance is designed so the dark room is free from light pollution as people enter and exit the room. This entrance is especially useful in a school curriculum, where multiple photographers and silk screen artists may be using the room at once.

The Film Canister


Traditional film cameras have a piece of photosensitive transparent cellulose that cannot be exposed to any light at all, including the safety lights. These films requires film canisters, which protect the unexposed film rolls from light. Photographers work in absolute darkness during the process.

The Enlarger


Set to produce photographic prints, the enlarger is composed of projection and illumination systems. The image is projected through a lens, typically fitted with an adjustable aperture, onto a flat surface bearing the sensitized photographic paper.

The Silk Screen Frame and the Squegee


These are tools for producing silkscreen paintings. The silk is porous. Green substances are stitched onto the frame. When light contacts the surface, the green stays wherever light doesn’t. The green washes out after artists take some ink and slide the squeegee over and through the silk.

The Film Camera


The 1990s-era film camera has a shutter that opens and closes quickly when taking a photo. Unlike modern phone and DSLR cameras, films need processing in the dark room, so the photographer will not see the product immediately. Films composed of molecular-size silver nitrates still have higher resolution than the pixels produced by digital cameras.

Author: Jingyuan Chen '23

Jingyuan Chen is an Editor-In-Chief for The Index. A staff writer since 2019, he had previously served as an Academics Editor, Managing Editor, and assumed the role of Editor-In-Chief in May 2022. His news piece “Inside the Middle School construction project” and his opinion piece “What can the U.S. learn from Chinese media censorship?” earned him regional Scholastic Writing Awards.