Technology at its Finest
Features Editor Emily investigates the effects of modern technology on fine arts
When Bobbie Barr, Health and Physical Education Department Chair, was a senior at Highland Park High School in 1966 , she was the news editor of the newspaper. Every two weeks, the editorial staff traveled to The Dallas Morning News printers, where they received proofs of the paper, corrected them and had the type reset to reflect their changes.
“It was all inky and messy,” Barr said of the printers used by all newspapers at the time. Compared to modern day, the relatively unsophisticated printing machines meant that sending the paper to press was a hands-on job. However, many schools back then didn’t have the privilege of actually traveling to the presses.
Today, The Fourcast uploads its files to the printer’s server, where it is printed and distributed to its readers usually without any problem. Even though the staff still sends the pages to press and the printing process is very similar to how it was before, the way the paper is produced, designed and sent to the printer is much faster and more modern. Barr argues, however, that this advantage has precluded girls from gaining experience of working with the ink, the type and the printing press.
“It was the neatest, the grizzled old characters, these type-setters and printers… like an old-timey movie,” Barr said.
The Fourcast doesn’t ever interact with presses in the way older newspapers used to, instead making corrections on the computer and emailing it to the printers. In contrast, Hockaday photography students, in their new suite also located in the Liza Lee Academic Research Center, are still able to get their hands dirty in the basic printing processes. However, this was not always the plan.
Five years ago, Hockaday started forming plans to improve the fine arts spaces. Photography teacher Janet Yoshii-Buenger soon quickly began thinking about space for the dark room and whether she still needed it in the digital age, aswell as whether it was economical to keep it with the rising prices of film and materials.
“I really went back and forth, you know. ‘Have a dark room, not have a darkroom.’ On one hand, having a dark room was something that students really enjoyed, because at that time we were also doing digital…but girls would say Mrs. Yoshii, don’t give up the dark room, and there was kind of a petition against going digital. But I also felt that not going digital would sort of teach you to be dinosaurs.”
After much deliberation, the photography department renewed its commitment to having options for both digital photography and hands-on alternative processing.
In contrast, St. Mark’s, given the opportunity to choose one or the other six years ago, had reverted entirely to digital photography, partly due availability of space in the same room.
“Initially, if I had had the opportunity to have both, I would have. In retrospect, there was really no way,” Scott Hunt, photography teacher at St. Mark’s, said.
Hunt explained that when he was making the decision six years ago, he saw companies like Nikon ceasing to produce the necessary cameras and materials for dark room processes, which include the developing of film as well as “alternative processes.” Also, his advanced students had begun using digital cameras but didn’t want to have to buy both types.
“The writing was sort of on the wall… plus a lot of the guys who started using digital really liked the wet lab experience and were glad they had it, but once they started working digitally, they just stayed,” Hunt said.
Hunt explained that rather than giving a student various corrections, having them spend 20 minutes preparing a new print, and then giving them more corrections requiring another 20 minute reprint, he could “train their eyes” much faster on the computer. The students must merely alter the values the computers display in a keystroke and be able to “compare their choice to [his] suggestion.”
Although Hunt has never regretted his decision, Yoshii-Buenger took a different approach.
“When it came time to make plans [last year], I decided to go for a dark room and a lot of that had to do with increased interest in alternative processes,” Yoshii-Buenger said. Many photography programs that had given up their wet laboratories in favor of digital ones have begun wanting them back since alternative processing is on the rise.
Yoshii-Buenger dedicates a whole quarter of the school year to alternative processing and actually has art on display in the teacher’s art exhibition in Purnell Gallery, showing her support for the art form.
Alternative processing, which has become the term for any kind of non-silver, non-digital print (though previously digital was considered alternative processing), Yoshii-Buneger compared it to “going to Mo Ranch and having to find the stick for your marshmallow and build a fire.” She appreciates the basics, believing that rather than the disconnected clicking of buttons, using your hands allows you to directly relate to the piece. “Some people say it’s part of being human,” she said.
Yoshii-Buenger doesn’t foresee economic problems with the processing, though she originally considered them. Many of the processes Hockaday students use do not require silver, gold or platinum, the most expensive materials.
An example of an alternative processing activity is the cyanotypes many classes made in early September. Cyanotypes, the starting place for blueprints, are only expensive in time rather than in money.
Many variables go into making the correct exposure, but for many, that’s what makes it interesting.
So just as Barr cherishes the memories of her hands-on newspaper experiences, Yoshii-Buenger’s students will benefit from and enjoy their time in the new facilities.
“I feel like we’re so fortunate that we can have both,” Yoshii -Buenger said.