Il racconto del mese – Dark room

Editorial illustration for La Stampa

Illustration made for the newspaper La Stampa

“The longer Wilby and I worked together, the closer we got. On weekends, he’d come in to teach me. We’d meet early on Saturday at the diner around the corner, next to the Limelight—a church turned drug-fueled dance club. We’d eat our pancakes beside club kids still out from the day before. Then we’d go up to the studio, or spend the day in the darkroom. I still have the prints we made together. Wilby drilling me until my blacks were truly black, and my whites, white-white, until I understood what it meant to care deeply and work hard.

Wilby got me to the point where other photographers would hire me out, to where I could do a job on my own. The more I assisted other people, the more I saw the kind of sacrifices they made, photographers living in their studios because they’d burned through their money or their marriages, because they had no boundary between work and life, no limits on what they’d give. I began to understand what true dedication meant, what it was to be all-consumed.

That’s when my head went out of the game. In the middle of a loud, fun fashion shoot, the room would go silent. I’d find everyone staring at me as I turned back from gazing out the window, oblivious to the fact that the camera had run out of film. I may have been similarly distracted when the equipment I was supposed to be loading was stolen off a city street. The photographer whose lights got pinched is the one who uttered—a kind of blessing—what I most needed to hear. “I hope you’re a good writer, because you’re the worst assistant I’ve ever had.”

Client: La Stampa

Illustration made for “Il racconto del mese”

Story: Nathan Englander

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