Webster University sophomore Meghan Storts believes the darkroom could use some major improvements, the first being training its employees.
Imagine this: You walk into a cell phone store and ask to buy a phone, a phone battery and a charger. They tell you they have no idea what you’re talking about, where they could find it and have no supervisor nearby to help them. This is something I experience often as a sophomore photography student. Webster’s darkroom has played a huge role in providing me with what I need to do assignments for my classes. Although my overall experience with the darkroom has been good, there have been some definite bumps in the road. A primarily student-run facility would come with struggles, for both the workers and the photography/film students. Some of the workers have experience within either photography itself, or from working there over a long period. However, not all of them have that. It’s not the employee’s fault, per se, but the fact that there isn’t much training for them on their products or how they work doesn’t seem to help.
The main reason I chose to come to Webster last fall was because I could work with film cameras and take part in the processing and development of the film in the darkroom. Now that I have taken a few photo classes, I’ve worked with not only film, but studio lighting, a Hasselblad, CaptureOne software, Photoshop, and more. Overall, I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity to be able to work with such expensive equipment, some that I will probably never be able to afford myself. I really do feel that I am a much more experienced and creative photographer from choosing Webster as my school.
Even though I’m able to work with the equipment, the process of renting them and hoping that all of the equipment I asked for is actually there can be more of a process than necessary. I am only a second year student, but since I have had to rent and reserve several things from the darkroom for my classes, I feel that I’m well-versed in this process. I personally know someone who previously worked in the darkroom and didn’t know how to properly dispose of developmental film chemicals, and was surprised when I told her that my teacher had told us what to do, and her superior hadn’t. Even while reserving studio equipment, many of the newer employees have had a hard time understanding what I’m asking for and finding where those things would be.
These are only a few problems I’ve experienced in my time here, however, I feel that if on-the-job training was enforced a little bit more, and possibly memorization of equipment names and how they work could provide the employees with a little more help than they’re receiving at the moment. Help for not only the employees, but for the students who have assignments due and who are paying for the opportunity to use the type of equipment Webster provides.