Guy Reynolds (Dallas News) recently wrote an article looking into the life of photo lab magician Robert Messina.

For 42 years as a do-it-all photo lab magician, Robert Messina has made photographers’ work shine at the Color Lab. But business has declined as the digital age changed photography, and fewer shooters seek film processing and printing. (excerpt from the Dallas News article)

Guy Reynolds, a photographer himself, talked with ILTP about his interest in Messina’s darkroom work in a world where most shooters have gone digital.

Robert Messina inspects a contact sheet

ILTP: Guy, What got you interested in this story? Do you have a photo background / love the darkroom?

Guy:  It’s been several years since the last darkroom here at the newspaper was reconfigured into a use more appropriate to the digital age and I was forced to start taking my film elsewhere for processing. I was the last to develop b/w film the old fashioned way, the way I learned during a week-long summer workshop at SMU when I was 16.

I love digital for many reasons but I still like film for some pursuits and on occasion shoot 2 1/4 and 4×5. By pure accident, and true luck, I found The Color Lab and Robert Messina still going at it, if not as strong as he once was. The digital age has changed so many facets of life in general and photography in particular and Robert’s business has declined as online has ascended but he’s still at it.

The digital age has changed so many facets of life in general and photography in particular

I was interested in documenting the place because of the memories it triggered for me and I know he’s going to close up not too far into the future. I shot for my high school paper and yearbook (J.J. Pearce HS in Richardson) and the school had a darkroom.

At some point I bought my own equipment, including a cheap Patterson enlarger, and set it up in the attic at home that had a door to an adjacent bathroom. I’d expose the paper in the dark attic and carry it to the developer trays in the bathtub. Of course UT, where I went to school from ’80-83 (Dennis Darling and JB Colson were my main teachers) had the big student lab and the Daily Texan had a lab and the three newspapers I worked at before Dallas had labs. In fact, all my shooting was done on film so I spent countless hours with my hands wet. And I still miss it.

 

 

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