My Analogue Darkroom*

The year was 2000.

My life was undergoing some big changes.

I had just begun my Masters Post Graduate Degree at RMIT.

I was soon to be married.

I had just bought a house with my ever patient partner. The house was a rare find, a large backyard, facing north, but more importantly a large garage, long enough to store 3 small cars. At last I was about to get my darkroom. It had only taken 8 years.

I had been fortunate however in those years between graduating from Uni, and settling down. I worked as a technician at a photography school and so had 24/7 access to all the processing and printing gear I needed. Like most people however I was scavenging and collecting any and all darkroom equipment I could afford as I waited to find the right space to set one up.

By the time we had bought our house, I had bought an Omega enlarger, and rescued 2.5 meter grey plastic sink,from the school I worked at. I switched out the condensers for a Zone IV cold light head, and saved up for a metronome for it as well. The enlarger came with 3 gorgeous Schneider Rodenstock lenses [50mm, 80mm, & 150mm], and a turret head allowing me to print from 35mm to 5×4. These days it’s either 6×6 or 5×4, but my archives are an endless source of contemplation. The best thing about my enlarger after the Zone VI metronome is the foot pedal used to operate it, keeping my hands free to burn and dodge.

The bench it rests upon is big enough to store other hardware such as my 5×4 camera and paper and notebooks as I work. When it came time to start building, I settled on an ‘L’ configuration, due to the sloping roof of the shed an the height of my enlarger for my 3 meter by 4 meter allocated space. I built the benches myself and rigged a temporary hose into the space, with roughed in plumbing ready for permanent connection when finances permitted.

The previous owners had left a plan press in the garage, so this was coaxed into use as a bench top, which housed a set of custom built shelves for negatives, contact sheets and work prints. I also had a custom built film drying cabinet in storage ready and waiting. Currently I have only cold water from an external tap running into the space, only a problem when printing in winter, bucketing hot water into the space in not an inconvenience at all. The sink is big enough to print 16 x 20, with a added on sink used as a place to put a wash tray. As my workflow usually involves long deliberation between work prints and finished prints these days, I only ever need room for 4 trays, Dev, Stop, Fix & rinse easily accommodated in my sink, these days I rarely print this large anyway.

I use pegs angled slightly on a specially built rack for storage of jugs beakers and other chemical ephemera above the sink. I have a separate shelf for my dry chemicals, and storage under the sink and benches for any other things that need to be kept out of the way. Another of the useful tools I use in this space are, some triple beam balance scales for making custom developers. I like to air dry my prints so I have hung a nylon rope across the ceiling for this purpose.

*Originally posted to Tumblr 7 years ago, now with fresh pictures.

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Author: s2

artist, picture maker, photobook creator

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