The District Closes SRV’s Darkroom

Last spring, the district informed San Ramon’s photography teacher, Mr. Williams, that the darkroom will be closing after the 2018-2019 school year. Mr. Williams has been a photography teacher at San Ramon Valley for 13 years, and started as a teaching assistant for the teacher before him. The program has been at San Ramon for over 40 years, and always included film photography.

“Essentially,” Mr. Williams said “it has been the only curriculum.” The addition of a semester of digital photography was added about three to four years ago.

He says he made the switch to a semester of digital because “it was just so impossible to get the funding for all the supplies, the film and the paper and the chemistry and all that stuff.”

After the darkroom closes, the program will become an all digital class.

“In the end, I think it’s tragic to lose something that is so beneficial” Mr. Williams explained. He also said, “One of the things that is really tough is that there’s a real bond between the photographer and their product when you are doing this.”

A previous photography student, Isabella Herbek, verified Mr. Williams statement, saying,

“I think film is more fun and interactive than digital. I’m disappointed that the darkroom is closing because it takes away an important aspect of the art of photography.”

A few more students expressed their concern for the future of the program; many mentioned that they had hoped to take advanced photography, but now will not, due to the changes within the program.

The sad reality of the matter is that our school and our district are shifting away from the arts and becoming more focused in other areas. For good reason, lots of kids don’t take more than their required art. We live in a society that pushes for AP and honors classes and high school kids strive for the perfect transcript.

As a result of that, art classes like photography, don’t receive the funding they need in order to continue with the program. Aside from the costs of building a darkroom facility, necessities like film, cameras, developer, fixer, enlargers, etc. need to be paid for.

However, Mr. Williams doesn’t believe that film is a dying art. He mentions that many new photographers, or millennials, are picking up film. Film photography might be done at SRV, however, you don’t have to look hard to find it in the outside world. Though it is disappointing decision for the aspiring photographers at our school, it is one that reflects the interest of the school.