Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
ART 142B
Course Title:
Intro to B&W Photo (Darkroom)
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Introduces intermediate black and white darkroom photographic processes, techniques and concepts. Addresses historical and contemporary issues specific to beginning photography. Develops photographic practices using peer critique and self-reflection. Requires access to a manual, SLR (single-lens reflex) film camera. This is the second course of a three-course sequence for first year black and white darkroom photography. Prerequisites: ART 142 or ART 142A or instructor permission. Audit available.

Addendum to Course Description

The course will provide a hands-on experience that introduces an intermediate level of beginning photography from an artistic, historic, and craft-oriented
perspective. All introductory aspects of black and white photography will be considered, from exposure of film in the camera, to mounting and displaying the
finished print. Special attention will be paid to self-expression, based on a beginning level understanding of aesthetic principles and graphic design. Historical approaches and contemporary issues concerning the art of photography will be discussed. Student abilities will be developed through regular photographic assignments and critical evaluations.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon successful completion students should be able to:

  • Understand, interpret and enjoy black and white photography from past to present within a local as well as global context at an intermediate beginning level.
  • Ask meaningful questions, identify ideas and issues, and develop and use intermediate level vocabulary when participating in critical dialogue about black and white photography with others.
  • Begin to find and develop creative ways to solve artistic and conceptual problems using a variety of environmentally sustainable photographic strategies at an intermediate level.
  • Create photographic work that is personally significant & fulfilling.
  • Navigate challenges & opportunities of working in a community photographic studio and laboratory.
  • Explore how to integrate the understanding that any photographic image is created and interpreted through the lens of both the artist and the viewer€™s own personal, social and cultural filters.

Course Activities and Design

  1. Create black and white prints that incorporate a variety of technical skills with an intermediate beginning awareness of the inherent characteristics of different wet-darkroom photographic processes.
  2. Begin to generate ideas/concepts with an awareness of the intended
    content of the work produced.
  3. Build upon current skill set with the intent of working towards technical proficiency.
  4. Develop safe studio practices in regards to the handling of tools, chemicals and machinery within a communal studio space.
  5. Further expand and utilize the necessary vocabulary specific to black and white photography when participating in class critiques and discussions.
  6. Explore how to assess and self-critique personal work to strategize creative solutions.
  7. Begin to develop personal work with an awareness of historical and contemporary artists working in intermediate beginning level black and
    white photography.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

  • Complete and present the individual work within a professional studio critique.
  • Begin to understand the vocabulary and concepts necessary to engage within a studio environment
  • Demonstrate appropriate techniques in intermediate beginning printing and studio habits beyond the classroom studio
  • Demonstrate ability to meet printing deadlines with proper time management and craftsmanship.
  • Prepare portfolios for professional presentation.

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

The course will include, but not be limited to, the following:

  1. Visual awareness and ability to see.
  2. Methodologies for designing and creating a photographic print which may include, series printing, projection, virtual, digital or web
    presentation of their image
  3. Challenges to visualization inherent in black and white darkroom photography.
  4. Language of photography and the qualities that distinguish it from other graphic media.
  5. Black and white photography in history.
  6. Options and possibilities for original work.
  7. Evaluating prints and images.
  8. Safety.
  9. Environmental concerns related to materials, consumption, processing and printing and proper disposal of waste produced.
  10. Non-traditional media and combined techniques (e.g., folios, zines, artist and/or kinetic books, collage, mixed media and collaboration with other


  • Knowledge of the camera: film loading, light metering systems, and the exposure controls (manual and automatic): shutter speed, which controls motion, and aperture, which controls the depth-of-field.
  • Knowledge of film: film speed, or the sensitivity of film to light, film processing, film chemistry, and how to manipulate negative contrast through
  • Knowledge of negative printing and enlarging: enlarger mechanics, including use of negative holders print easels, and grain focusers; exposing film onto photographic paper, for contact (proof) sheets, and enlargements, and evaluating exposures for density and contrast; further print manipulation through dodging and burning, and use of contrast filters.
  • Finishing the print: spotting and retouching the final print; dry mounting and over matting; other options, including books, screens, and mixed media may be discussed.
  • Aesthetic issues: use of graphic techniques, through control of contrast and density; effective use of focus, depth-of-field, and stopping/blurring motion; use of the rectangle, the edge, and cropping; line, form, shape, texture, rhythm, and space.
  • Photographic history and practitioners: presentation, through slides, lectures, and videos, of periods, artists, and technology, issues in the history of photography. In particular, photographic genres, including landscape and nature, documentary, reportage, abstraction, portrait, self-portrait, and
    candid photography, will be discussed. Emphasis will be on how historical concerns effect, and led to, contemporary issues, artists, and techniques.