Photo alum proposes in dark room

According to Daniel McQuade, who earned a BFA in photography at Marshall in 2006 and went on to become a professional photographer, this story has been in the making for about six years now. It all started when he walked into Baptist Campus Ministries(BCM) on Marshall’s Huntington campus one night.

“I was by my lonesome, and I saw this gorgeous girl,” McQuade said. “Naturally, I didn’t say anything because I was on the shy side. She was with a ‘posse,’ and I was just some random guy by himself.”

The girl, Lizzy Freeman, is a third-year medical student at Marshall’s School of Medicine.  And Saturday, March 5, she became McQuade’s fiancée.

A few days after the random sighting, McQuade showed up at the darkroom in Smith Hall, and the girl was there. “It caught me off guard for a second because it was one of the last things I expected, but this time I said something. We struck up a conversation. Long story short … I ended up spending a lot of time with her in the darkroom and we grew pretty close. I was there when her grandma passed away and she asked me if I would go to BCM with her that night. She was there helping me through endless frustrations when I was working on exhibitions and my senior show till ungodly hours of the night.”

Fast forward a few years and McQuade is ready to propose marriage to Freeman. He knew she wanted a unique proposal—no ring in the wine glass for this girl—and the idea came to McQuade to take her back to where they’d first met; the darkroom.

McQuade contacted Danny Kaufmann, assistant professor of photography at Marshall to gain permission to be in the darkroom a few nights. He hired videographer buddy Trevor Coffman, who came all the way from the Gorge, to capture the proposal on video. Then McQuade drove out to the “boonies” to shoot the proposal photograph, which was to be presented to Freeman at just the right time.

Coffman met up with McQuade around 11:30 and set up the video in the darkroom while McQuade went through with his proposal idea. Coffman also put a sign on the door that indicated that video equipment was in the darkroom to dissuade any questions from Freeman about it being there.

McQuade explained some of the preparation.

“I shot quite a few rolls to get the one that I wanted to use,” he said. “My plan was to develop a picture that I had written a proposal on and stash it until Lizzy was running a print of her own through the developer. When she was standing there with her print I would slip mine on top and she would see it and I would do the guy thing and drop to one knee. As simple as it sounds, it ended up being a production on my end. I picked up Lizzy and headed to the darkroom. All the while Trevor hid in his car waiting for my signal that all had gone well. We got there and had a little bit of a hard time finding the right equipment to use but we finally found two that worked for us. Time was ticking and we only had one hour of video to get the proposal. Finally the time came when Lizzy was ready to run a print through the developer. I led her to believe that I was running one of my own through from one of our previous shoots but I swapped it out for the proposal print when I walked up beside her at the sink. It was ‘go time’ and I hoped that the print would turn out the way I had intended. About 5 second later the words “Lizzy, will you marry me” became visible on a little card in the picture and I dropped to one knee and whipped out the ring. She was in shock and everything went just as I had wanted it to.”

For Freeman, it was perfect.

“The darkroom was really the perfect place,” she said. “I remember meeting him in college there—I remember exactly what he was wearing. Once I found out he had a key to the darkroom it was all over; we spent hours in that room. Then

Daniel and I began officially dating December 29, 2005. I shared my love of the snow and he shared his of the water. Daniel had a rough time learning how to snowboard, and rough is putting it mildly. I eventually overcame my initial fear of falling off the jet ski at the lake.  We’ve traveled to NY with the art department, Niagara Falls, numerous states, and plenty of beaches. When he asked me to go to the darkroom, I really wasn’t suspecting anything.  We had been out shooting with the Holgas and Daniel had been to the darkroom multiple times developing film so I didn’t think much of it.

Freeman explained that the couple initially had trouble finding equipment that would work for their project.

“Once we found one that worked, we began to make test prints,” Freeman said. “I remember getting mine right and Daniel wanted me to wait on him. I just figured he was excited since we hadn’t done this in a while. Then he said, “I’ll just wing this one, I have tons of paper.”  First of all, Daniel wings nothing.  He is a perfectionist photographer—to the point it drives me crazy sometimes.  Winging is not characteristic of him.  Also he could have all the paper in the world but would never waste a sheet on “winging it.”

But Freeman let him finish his print.

“Then we threw our prints in the developing solution.  He insisted his be on top of mine and I said, ok, whatever and I asked him to get the timer and I would shake the solution (which he claims to have never heard).  He didn’t move.  I was confused until I looked into the developing solution when his photo revealed itself. I looked back at him and he was on one knee with the ring, and said, “This is as good of a time as ever, right?”  I put my hand out to accept the ring, nervous I guess, and Daniel said, “No I have to put it on your finger!”  I was floored. Completely shocked.   And of course, I said yes!”