I’ve been more or less hate-reading Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections and I have to report that I was overjoyed to discover that Mr. Know-It-All Pro-Analog/Anti-Digital-Technology got some crucial information wrong about color film photography:
"He remixed his solutions and opened a fresh box of paper. Jonah sat down by a safe light and whispered as he turned the pages of one of the Narnia books …" [p. 139]
Color darkrooms don’t use safe lights because even a safe light would expose color paper. Color paper must be in complete darkness before and after exposing the negative; you can’t expose it to any other light at all until the developer is stopped. Ha!
Even though the character (“Gary”) is pretty well-off, I still thought it was kind of a stretch that he had a color darkroom in his garage. While it’s not impossible to tray-develop color photos, it’s a lot more difficult because color chemicals require more specific and constant temperatures than black and white, and so it’s generally more common to use a developing tube or an automatic developing machine to stabilize temperatures (either way being completely light-tight; you can’t even have a safe light on during the developer bath). Also, color developing doesn’t use developer/stop/fixer, it uses developer/blix (bleach + fix).
I know I’m being nit-picky here but it’s mainly because Franzen obviously went to the trouble of throwing around certain technical jargon about photography — all of which, I think, would have been correct for a home black and white darkroom, just not color — that would sound believable to the “average reader,” but he’s wrong, and isn’t it great when pompous, cranky old white dudes are wrong, especially when like five minutes of research — which is your job as an author, or at least the job of your unpaid intern — would’ve enabled such a reader as myself to continue suspending disbelief. Hm! Ha!