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Gulf Coast Academy students take a step back in time in film photography class

Gulf Coast Academy eighth-grader Kara Peters, 13, removes film from canisters in a black cloth bag.
Gulf Coast Academy eighth-grader Kara Peters, 13, removes film from canisters in a black cloth bag.
Published Dec. 16, 2015

SPRING HILL — Gulf Coast Academy eighth-grader Kara Peters was halfway up to her elbows in an elasticized black bag. She was moving stuff around inside that needed to be kept completely out of the light.

For anyone old enough to remember using cameras that operated with film, she was moving the film from its canister to a developing tank. Kara, 13, is in Gulf Coast's after-school film photography class. And as an eighth-grader, since she has opted to take the class each year, this is her third time.

"I really enjoy expressing myself creatively, and photography is a really good way to do that," she said. "I've done digital photography before, and I find doing this gives me a closer relationship to the photography, and it shows passion because this shows you really want to do it."

The club's adviser is Dylan Barnes, the school's technology teacher.

"I'm a film photographer. That's why I started the club," Barnes said. "They learn what film is, how to load it. They learn all the film processing. It's all black and white."

Sixth-grader Jailyn Nunez, 11, said her parents told her about the film classes they took in school, and she decided to take the class to find out "if it was a lot of fun or just a regular class," she said. Her assessment turned out to be favorable.

"It's actually really amazing, just taking pictures of nature and things out there, because it's like a mystery of what you took a picture of. You have to wait to develop and scan the pictures," she said.

Seventh-grader Joey Murray, 13, also likes the mystery aspect of film photography.

"The developing process is fun," he said. "You don't know how they are going to come out, so there's some suspense. You feel really good when it turns out."

Barnes has goals he hopes the students absorb. The purpose of the class, he said, is "to teach the kids patience when they're shooting photography," he said. "It makes them compose their images. It makes them frame it. Instead of instant gratification, they have to wait for their reward."

Joey seems to get that.

"You get a lot more pride in it," he said. "Instead of taking 50 pictures, you have to actually work for this."

Joey hopes to take the class again next year and then return as a volunteer after he has left Gulf Coast for high school.

Offering a film class requires a few things, not the least of which is film cameras, both point-and-shoots and single-lens reflex. Barnes has 10 to 15 of his own that the students use, and others from a group called the Film Photography Project.

"They donated 30 to 40 cameras," Barnes said.

The students buy their film, equipment and chemicals online. Students pay $5 to take the class, but Barnes welcomes donations for the consumables.

What they do not have — yet, anyway — is a darkroom for photo printing.

"We develop the film and archive it digitally using a film scanner," Barnes said.

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Recently, students chose two or three of their favorites for printing, and the school held an exhibit for parents and friends.