Late in my eighth grade year at Hinsdale Junior High I discovered
the wonder of making photographs in the light and developing
pictures in the dark. Thanks to my childhood friend and early
mentor, Jay Kusler.
Jay was a very bright kid. Good student and very popular with
everyone. He was the class clown but also the teacher’s favorite. I
enjoyed his friendship.
One day he brought home made photographs of pictures he’d taken of
our classmates. The prints were 2.5” X 3.5” wallet size black and
whites. I was amazed to learn that he made the prints himself and
asked if he would come to my house to photograph my collection of
old radios and telephones. I was actually far more interested in
seeing the photographic process first hand than I was in having my
That afternoon Jay came to my house with his photo lights,
camera, and tripod. He set up his camera and lights in my basement
and took several photographs. Later that evening he called me to say
the pictures were ready.
I quickly rode my bike to his house several blocks away. Jay had a
makeshift darkroom in the laundry room using his grandfather’s old
enlarger. Three 5” X 7” Kodak developing trays sat atop the washer
and dryer. On a wire suspended over the washer and dryer, wooden
close pins held several 2.5” X 3.5” black and white prints of my
That was the very moment the photo bug bit me. I was amazed by
Jay’s knowledge of the photographic process and became desperate to
learn everything I could from him. The next day Jay took me to
Hinsdale Camera Center where I bought a Yankee developing tank and
the necessary chemicals so I could also develop film. He taught me
how to mix the chemicals and to develop film.
My father gave me a simple 35mm camera that one of his patients had
given him. I was soon taking pictures of anything and everything
just so I could retreat to the darkroom and experience the magical
process of developing the film and seeing the results.
The Summer between eight grade and freshman year, Jay’s family moved
to Clarendon Hills a few miles away. In addition to his photographic
skills, Jay was also a gifted athlete. He was making photographs of
the gymnastics and swim team for the school coaches. Because of the
move from Hinsdale to Clarendon Hills, Jay’s darkroom would be
temporarily unavailable so we set up his equipment in my basement
bathroom. That summer Jay and I spend countless hours developing
film and making little prints.
When Jay’s family was all settled into their new home, Jay took his
darkroom equipment back. I was now totally hooked on photography
with no enlarger of my own. My dad bought me a used Omega D2
enlarger and all of the developing trays and assorted accessories
necessary to produce prints on my own. I now had my own darkroom in
the little basement bathroom!
Go to the Archie Lieberman Story to
see what happened next.