Welcome to my world, won’t you come on in, miracles I guess, still happen now and then.
Howdy. I’m busy (still) scanning negatives from my road trip so I figured I’d write about something else while the Espon does it’s thing on the desk next to me. So, the darkroom. I’ve been spending a decent amount of time in there recently and I’m well into my second 50 sheet box of 16×12″ paper with no signs of slowing down.
I’ve not managed to set up my own equipment just yet so I’ve been using the excellent darkroom facilities at the Stills Gallery in central Edinburgh. It’s a delightful basement setup which I generally have all to myself on a Sunday afternoon (Aside from the recent Doors Open weekend in which I had a continuous stream of visitors!).
It’s pretty nice to just be able to walk in and get going, no setting up or faffing about blacking out the bathroom windows or anything like that. As a bonus the enlargers happen to be the same model that I have at home so I’m right at, ahem, home with them (pun intended!).
These pictures show the basic arrangement for any good darkroom – the dry side (right) with the enlarger and space to layout your negatives, boxes of paper, etc. And the wet side (left) with the trays of chemicals for developing the prints and a sink for washing and drying them in and over.
This place has become a kind of sanctuary for me over the last few months, my hideaway from the outside world. I generally do a six hour shift every couple of weekends and manage to print something like 16 to 20 images in that time. It’s a worthwhile time investment as my printing skills are developing nicely and the images you see hanging up in the background are some of my best prints so far (you’ll see the scanned and digitally processed versions of some of those in the next roadtrip post – but you are missing out if you don’t see the Proper Prints!).
I think many people see printing in this way as a laborious task, especially in the era of instant inkjet printing, but I disagree. Ansel Adams wrote that the negative is the score and the print is the performance, which is a nice way of putting it. My own view is that I love to actually make things, so printing is a worthy 50% of the process for me. An unprinted negative is just wasted potential. I try to filter the bad images out by not pressing the shutter in the first place, so every image I actually commit to film deserves a chance to be printed – there speaks a man who owns ‘six shots to a roll’ cameras!
I took these images a couple of weeks back with the aim of sharing a peek into my world. And if you are wondering how dark it actually is inside a darkroom then these were 9 second exposures at f4 & ISO 800. And if that means nothing to you then it is really quite dark in there.
But once my eyes have adjusted to the dim red light, and I’ve put my headphones on, six hours in that place just flies by. I can’t recommend it enough (although I do like having the place to myself!)