Painting With Light


The dark room at South. It has been here as long as there has been film photography, yet many people don’t even know where it is in the building.

Slater Gutierrez


At South, there are multiple options for students interested in the arts. An option students had this year was film photography. A seemingly outdated form of art has made a comeback at South with over a dozen students participating in the project. Artist in Residence Della Nohl and art teacher Brian Sommersberger helped to open the dark room back up. 


One of the primary reasons for the dark room’s recent resurgence is student interest. Thought to be a lost art, film photography’s antiquity leads to modern day ingenuity. Senior Nalee Xiong said, “I do find a lot of fascination in working with ‘outdated’ technology. It definitely has some history to it, and I think my pursuit in it is keeping it alive in some way.” 


Another reason that the dark room has been so successful this year is how welcoming it is to students. Senior Lea Netteberg said her favorite thing was, “The process where you need to find out if your picture needs to be lighter or darker.”

Something to understand about film photography is that the process involves taking a whole roll of pictures, opening the film canister in a pitch black room, and processing the film. Only after that is the film ready to be put into an enlarger and printed onto paper. 


Nalee Xiong said this about her process, “Many of my photos are candids of myself, friends, or just random photos I think would look nice. I also like to look at other works of photographers and take inspiration from them. I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to developing my film and printing out photos. I end up doing lots of test strips and changing the apertures, etc. just to find what I think is perfect.”


 Lea Netteberg said “I feel like it is almost the same for everybody. You take a picture then take it down to the darkroom and then you have to process the film before you can use the film to develop pictures.”


All of the work done in the dark room has happened thanks to the help from Della Nohl and Brian Sommersberger. When asked about the point of even having a dark room at South anymore, Mr. Sommersberger said, “Talking with photographers, dark rooms are definitely a thing of the past that many in the industry are not doing anymore. Thanks to modern technology, digital photography has basically put an end to photography darkrooms. I personally view it as a lost art form that students should continue to experience. The photos developed in the darkroom have a nostalgic hands-on feel. Having our Artist in Residence Della Nohl teach students how to develop and process film has been a great opportunity for our students at South High School.”


Another question people may have is where can people see the student’s work. Mr. Sommersberger said, “We will be having a photography exhibition at a local restaurant. Stay tuned for details!”