…or Discipleship in a Darkroom
The whole darkroom process starts with special materials—ordinary celluloid film coated in a particularly light-sensitive silver-haloid dust. It’s this unique property that makes photography possible.
We are also made of light-sensitive material. We react to it, resonate with it.
“That which is of God is light; and he that recieveth light and continueth in God recieveth more light and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (Doctrine & Covenants 50:24)
Knowing this, each of us have a simple, but fundamental choice to make: We can leave our ‘exposure’ to divine light to chance…OR…we can engage our agency and seek the light we need to create the images we want from our lives.
Great photographers use tools and tricks to use natural light to full advantage—and even create light. Monitors evaluate light levels from all angles. Reflectors focus and direct light where it’s needed most. Flashes create light to fill in dark spots. And a discerning eye can see beauty in shadow as well as in light.
Once an image has been captured on the film, it’s immersed in the developer (emulsifier) where chemicals bind to the unexposed silver halides and strip them from the film.
That is, anything not exposed to the light is no longer part of the image.
“This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater personal discipline. Rather it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures.” –David A. Bednar
We read in scripture about Christ’s arms being “outstretched” toward the sinner and sometimes think the road back is longer than it is.
“Yea I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefor, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31)
It’s amazing to watch a strip of film slip below the surface of a developer tub and see images appear in the frames that weren’t there seconds before. Pain, darkness, despair and doubt can begin fading from our lives just as quickly.
“You cannot stay on the summit forever. You have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is beneath. What is below cannot know what is above. One climbs, one sees, one descends. One sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art to conducting oneself in the lower regions according to the memory of what one saw higher up. What one can no longer see, one can at least still know” -René Daumal
The third step is the Stop Bath, which halts all chemical processes and returns the film to a neutral state.
These times are hard for me!
But I’ve discovered over the years that even beloved and chosen people spend a lot of time in the wilderness. And we can gain a lot by studying what happens in those wildernesses—and what makes the difference. Because we can wander… or we can be lead. We can starve…or we can be fed. We can be lost…or we can be transformed.
This final step makes the image permanent, binds it to the medium.
Richard Scott, a modern apostle, talk about the process of writing revelation (the impressions of divine light) on our hearts by writing it physically. He stresses that we record even those insights that seem minor at the time ‘faithfully’—believing in our potential to communicate with the heavens—and carefully, accurately; asking if we got it right; listening for confirmation…or correction; and then asking if there is more yet for us to learn.
The process isn’t easy. These are intense chemicals—not to mention it’s all happening in a darkroom. But if we can remember what we’re doing, what image it is we’re fixing, it will put light in our eyes, make us steadfast and immovable, and we will become the children of light.
For “Beloved, now are we the sons of God—and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.” (1 John 3:2) “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray earnestly with all the energy of heart that ye may be filled with this love and receive his image in your countenances. That when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is, that we may have this hope, that we may be purified even as he is pure.” (Moroni 7:48)