Knowing when it’s love.

“Knowing When It’s Love.”
Shoreline Community College Dark Room
Seattle, WA


I’ve finally succumbed to my obsessive cell phone photo habit and have decided it’s time to graduate and start playing with ‘real’ cameras now and begin to understand how they work.  So, I’ve enrolled in a beginning photography class.  My teacher is a nut and very knowledgeable – I love it.

Our first assignment was to create a photogram to get us acquainted with the enlarger and dark room equipment, as well as to have us start thinking about composition and how to set up images in a way that captures what we want to express.

We were asked to create an image using objects taken from home.  What I first envisioned and started out with turned out to be different from what resulted as I played with objects, filters, exposure times, development elixir timings and agitations.  Initially I was planning on using more objects than I ended up with, and the subject of my image was going to be titled, “Daydreams, memories and forgetting”, but it unfolded into something else. 

That’s what I really enjoyed about this assignment.  The focus was on the process.  Often, in life, we focus on the result or the means needed to create, generate or ‘get’ something.  I am a proponent of paying attention to the process.  To do this we must focus on the present moment.  I think it makes the end result a more honest one.  


To create the image above, I used a cotton black scarf (which is often found wrapped around my neck), a cloth flower I randomly found years ago and vowed I would find something to do with, and a necklace my dad sent to me from Kabul last year – a lapis lazuli pendant in the shape of a heart.

The image is a positive print or reverse negative of the first print I made, the negative.  To do this, you sandwich a blank sheet of photo development paper, emulsion side up, with the emulsion side (down) of a negative print, expose and develop.   


Assignment #1: Create a photogram

The subject of this photogram is ‘our recognition, definition and understanding of love’.

The darker bottom portion of the image, the ‘soil’, represents our idea of love – our emotional experience of love that we cannot define with words; our internal experience of what we understand love to be.  The lighter top portion of the image is our contrasting tactile experience of love – the tangible, visible expression of the love that we see.  Like the flower, our surface-level experience of love can be understood through the senses:  we can touch and see the flower’s petals, smell its fragrance, and taste it, if we want to.

The gauzy texture of the soil captures the confusion and murky misunderstanding of love that we experience; usually as adolescents and young adults.  The visual rhythm of the roots, as represented by scarf tassels, falling downward leads the viewer’s eye to the heart, the universal symbol of love, which sits in the bottom left corner of the image.   It is unclear whether the flower we see has sprouted from the heart or whether it’s tethered to one of the roots which holds nothing at its end.

The stark contrast of the white space of the top portion of the image brings our focus to the flower.  Above the soil it’s clear what we see – a delicate, blossoming flower.  This captures the idealist nature of young love – a love that we want to see and believe.  What we see in this dreamy reality is the flower, and nothing else.  At face value, a love interest can appear beautiful and grounded in our understanding of what love means, but below the surface, we do not know if the love we feel is anchored in reality.


  1. It’s good Dawni! I prefer B&W: it allows meanings to surface, which colors often block, or detract from the viewer. L, Dad

    1. Hey Dad – thanks for the comment! I completely agree – black and white is the way to go. Sepia is a good one to use, too, depending on the shot. The coloring reminds me of old western photos. 🙂 Love, Dawni

  2. When I first looked at it emotions of sadness did over ride any other but the more I looked at it HOPE was the more evoked response.

    1. Hey Evan, thanks for the comment! I love that a sense of hope over-rode your initially sad response. Perhaps there was more happening in the process of making this, than I was aware of at the time?

  3. Knowing when it’s love …there is indeed a particular transparency of self and other. The heart buried deep in a tangled web of roots and history, meshed threads loosely woven together, and a singular stem of bloom above a solid ground with an openness of possibility. Yep… I’d know it to see it like that. nice work..

    1. Thanks, Ms. C. Indeed, that is so key where love is concerned – transparency.

      The heart buried deep in a tangled we of roots and history, meshed threads loosely woven together, and a singular stem of bloom above a solid ground with openness of possibility.

      Pure poetry – I love it!

  4. Interesting…kind of like ying/yang idea. At one point you can see the sprouting up of the flower, yet in another angle, the sadness of the heart. Great objects and great usages of the objects in a black and white way. I know the focus is on the flower against the white background, but I can’t help and see the downward pointed necklace. hmmm…

    1. Thanks, Heather! I like your Yin and Yang interpretation – I think it totally fits here. I don’t think this photo would have worked as well in color.

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