Julian Lass

A boy is sent to a new school. The school is typical of its old grammar roots. It has long corridors and polished floors, high ceilings and desks carved with the initials of a century of boredom. The boy, entering this world for the first time, lacks the extrovert nature prized at such establishments; he is shy, intelligent, unathletic: a coterie of sins. And because of a quirk of his village school, he joins the class as it begins its second year, with friendships already formed. Because he is new, he is viewed at first with curiosity, but then suspicion. Rather than facing up to the taunts, the boy seeks refuge in himself. In that way he lessens the probability of being stepped on.

Every lunchtime the boy seeks the school's small darkroom under the library stairs. As he explores this world of darkness, a new feeling takes hold. He locks himself away from the rough jostlings of his classmates, choosing to spend his allotted lunch hour alone, where he can feel more keenly in the foggy smell of chemicals and old equipment coated with years of sticky residue.

Occasionally he misses this scheduled hour in the dark. During these lit hours he observes the other denizens of the school's affectless world. Two kinds of people stalk the corridors: those who think they've found friendship and love, and those who think they're without it.

But once back in the darkroom, the boy learns how to fill his own time with the maximum of images. He grows ever more frantic in his attempts to achieve perfection. He thinks now with a stopwatch in his hand and this is how he begins to steer the darkness. Perhaps one can say that once upon a time his photographs were certain and the frames were of cardboard. Now the frames have become certain and the photographs are becoming cardboard.

After a few weeks of this he begins to feel unwell. He wakes up each morning with a heavy head. It is difficult for him to get up and he struggles to his feet. On his walk to school he starts to notice the mulching of rotting leaves, the thickness of shadows. His dreams are about falling. He becomes as skittish as a horse. In the darkness he creates one perfect print upon another, until, finally feeling empty inside, he develops prints without the necessary step of fixing them ready for the light.

Instead he spreads his blazer on the floor and lies down in the darkness. A breeze forces open the door. The desire to be loved is the last image, the breeze whispers. O boy, that's your problem.

As light will have entered the room through the door, the images will have already begun to fade, and so he must begin again, start over.

Focusing the old enlarger onto silver-coated paper, rays of light reflect from the whiteness of the paper and scatter round the room.
Flickering beams of light like water, the glittering image of the moon, swiftly pervade every place far and wide, and dart high up, to strike the ceiling of the highest roof.

Measuring solutions, exposing silvered papers, once more in the dark, he begins to find what is made true by his embrace.