This essay argues for the need to historicize and theorize race in photography by attending to the interventions of darkroom technicians, especially those who are themselves racialized. Understanding the crucial role of the darkroom technician challenges the idea that photographic development is merely a mechanical or technical process. The photograph in development represents a moment of transition that illuminates the instabilities of photographic images in general, and those that attend to race and diaspora in particular. Racialized and diasporic identities are constructed out of and despite ongoing processes of transition, fragmentation, and dispersal. This essay focuses on Chinese approaches to photographic development, exploring the cultural histories that inform the technique and craft. Engaging with photography as a process of development uncovers a powerful connection to the construction of diasporic communities.

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