by Marina Zheng, CAS ’16
The fall semester of my sophomore year, I decided that I wanted to take some of the burden off my heavy course-load by taking a photography class in Tisch. I knew how to use a camera, how difficult could it be? There I was, sitting at a conference-style table on the first day of class as the professor passed around the syllabus. “Required items for class,” it listed. “Notebook, pen, manual camera 35mm…”
Excuse me, what? It was in that moment that I realized that I had signed myself up for a manual photography class, one that included dark room procedures and film developing in its syllabus. I was in over my head with this one — I didn’t even know where to purchase a manual camera. If it hadn’t been for the fact that I already paid a $300 fee for equipment use, I would’ve walked out and never looked back. But I stayed and I tried; what happened as a result was a shock in and of itself.
To this day, that photography class has been my most memorable and life-changing in the entirety of my college career. Yes, I was out of my comfort zone. Yes, there were many trials and errors that didn’t always end in my favor. I still remember the first time I tried my hand in the dark room, it resulted in 3 rolls of destroyed films and 2 cuts on my hand. But, I learned a lot about a subject that I had never been confident enough to even try to learn. And, I had a great deal of fun along the way.
I don’t want to say that photography became a lifelong passion of mine but for that semester, it did offer me a nice escape from the stresses of my other classes. There is a great sense of joy and pride attached to exceeding one’s own expectations. For me, this class was an opportunity to do just that. When we are so engrossed in the idea of getting good grades or finishing up our required credits, it’s easy to forget that college, at least from an educational perspective, is a period of complete freedom. But when a class like this comes along— one that is both challenging and stimulating— we really do develop from the negatives, as the saying goes.