My proudest accomplishment in 2015: The Completed Apartment Darkroom v2.0 | Color photograph is at the end of this blog post >>>

The Birth & Death of  Darkroom v1.0 

The New Darkroom HandbookAs I shared in a previous post, in February of 2015 I decided to piece together an Apartment Darkroom.  The combination of A) thinking, I HAVE TO PRINT MY OWN SHIT and B) having very little access to a public darkroom in Milwaukee led to: Build your own darkroom and teach yourself to print, woman. Having never experienced the darkroom before or even knowing where to begin, I went to the google machine… 

Strangers on the interwebs encouraged me to purchase The New Darkroom Handbook by DeMaio, Worth, and Curtin as a guide. Holla for that dolla. This book is excellent. It walks you through, step-by-step, how to convert nearly any room — kitchen, closet, bathroom, it doesn’t matter — into a functioning darkroom. As I flipped through the text, I made note of layout ideas and began my equipment checklist. Then, knowing what I needed, I went to Craigslist and posted a Wanted Ad, and before I knew it I was driving to the middle of nowhere to pick up “Estate / Acquisition #1” from a ‘retired’ printer named Mike.  Mike provided everything but the chemistry to get my darkroom up and running. I was all set. Darkroom v1.0 was born. 

Apartment Darkroom V 1.0 was put together in a boyfriend’s extra bedroom. We all know how that story goes. For all intents and purposes, it was great, but it only lasted 4 months — the darkroom, that is. The problem with building a darkroom in someone else’s apartment is you can’t print on a whim at 2am on a Thursday night when inspiration suddenly strikes because, well, you don’t live there. and, also, just never build a darkroom in a boyfriend’s apartment. 

Darkroom v1.0 sufficed, but it wasn’t everything I had dreamed of.

Finding the space for Apartment Darkroom v2.0

Why didn’t I build the darkroom in my apartment in the first place? Good question. It boiled it down to: I didn’t have an extra room and my “closet” — which was a pass-through room with curtains and no power source– wasn’t big enough for the amount of equipment I had accumulated in those few, short months.

Sometime this August, I was laying in bed at my place and realized my bedroom was furnished pretty simply, too simply. imagine a frat-bro bedroom. now add a semi-attractive curtain… and maybe a garbage can. yeah, i took little pride in beautifying my bedroom. it essentially served only one function: provide a space for this chick to sleep. And it didn’t serve its function well. Did I mention I live above a bar? Yeah. And that my bed was conveniently located above the bar’s speaker system. Yeah. But at least i get a break on rent.

While the perks of this sleeping arrangement included gaining unanticipated knowledge during Sunday’s Trivia night, it also meant when the third Tuesday of the month rolled around, a wannabe Phish band [with too much bass] promptly initiated soundcheck at 9pm. I know nothing about music, but If the bass is rattling the iron-star-thingys on a gas stovetop upstairs and three rooms away, it might be a little too intense…? Nay. it is too fucking intense, Traywanabe.  In a sincere effort to avoid being a party pooper, I purchased noise canceling earphones and acknowledged sleep in my bedroom wasn’t possible certain nights of the week. The couch got some love.

Back to the night I was laying in bed looking around my sad, sad sleeping space … As my water glass and lamp clanked together in rhythm to the unending “jam sesh” enjoyed by patrons of the bar below me, I realized the large room — around 14′ by 10′ — I inhabited was wasted space. God that bedroom was lame.

darkroom > bedroom. priorities. duh.

so i threw my mattress on the floor of my closet.

problem solved.

Acquisition #2: Darkroom Estate

VINTAGE DARKROOM INSTRUCTION MANUALS

♫♪ On the 12th of September, a stranger sold to me:

12 trays for printing

11 cups for measuring

10 total boxes

9 random hoses

8 books for reading

broken lightbulbs

6 rods for stirring

5 enlarging lenses

4 glass condensers

3 enlarger set-ups

2 polonium brushes

and one box of questionable chemistry   😐

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

What I call “Acquisition #1″ included exactly what I needed to get the ball rolling on my first, basic darkroom: The Omega Pro-Lab D6: an enlarger capable of printing 35mm – 4×5” negatives including negative carriers of all sizes, three lenses on a turret, Safelight, Trays, Easels, Focusing Magnifier, Paper, Timer. But as time went on and I printed more, I realized there were quite a few items I didn’t have. As I packed up Darkroom v1.0, and prepped my apartment for v2.0, my wish list grew and grew. With a limited budget and high hopes, I asked good ole Craig[slist] for help. I published another ad online. Hey, it worked the first time, right?

Wanted: Traditional Black and White Darkroom Equipment. Specifically, looking for XYZ. 

About a week after the publication of my Craigs ad, a gentleman contacted me and said, “I have everything on your list and then some… contact me if interested in picking up ASAP and I will give you a good price.” After a bit of back and forth discussing details, he stated, “I have everything on your list and more. The only catch: you have to take it all. You can’t pick and choose. Bring a Pickup truck. There’s a lot of stuff. All for $75.00”

Apartment Darkroom Supplies

I only wanted what I needed…But, um, hello $75.00??!?! Fuck yes. SOLD! So I borrowed a pickup truck [and a friend because it’s Craigslist and I’m not a complete fool], and drove an hour to procure my treasure.

When we arrived, I realized this guy wasn’t kidding. There was a lot of stuff. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes. So, we filled the pickup bed AND the backseat, and headed home. As I unpacked the truck, I made three piles: KEEP, TOSS, DONATE. It was a mix of, “holy shit, this is fucking awesome.” and “holy shit, how the fuck do i responsibly dispose of hydrochloric acid?”

Planning Darkroom v2.0 suddenly became a more intense and legit project. All of the items on my wish list were crossed off and waiting for some love. A second enlarger (the Beseler Dichro 67) was a surprise and added bonus! Now, to make room for two enlargers, tray counter, 4′ light table.

When it Rains, It pours

…paper…

Holy Paper

Sometime in late August I visited upstate New York to celebrate summer’s end. While out of town, a friend / colleague / fellow photographer, texted me and asked if I was interested in some free darkroom paper. He had been contacted by a local studio that was cleaning house and were dumping their inventory of darkroom paper. If someone didn’t take it that day, they were tossing it. ALL OF IT. Since I was out of town, I couldn’t pick it up. Thankfully, my friend grabbed it for me and harbored it until I returned from my trip — HO-LEE-BALLS.

Jarob mentioned there was a lot of paper. Like before, I underestimated the bounty. How much paper could there possibly be, I thought? Welp, turns out there are  somewhere around 3,000 sheets sized 5×7″ to 20×24″ …

The darkroom gods smile upon me.

Shit was getting serious. I now had all I needed.

All the pieces for My dream darkroom were there. Now, to put together the puzzle.

I began planning…

because i’m a nerd and i love diagrams and ill-proportioned doodles.

the plans

APARTMENT DARKROOM, DIY DARKROOM

Apartment Darkroom Plans, DL Hudson

caffeinated brainstorm session, sketch 1.

Apartment Darkroom, Sketch I

caffeinated brainstorm session, sketch ii.

THE RESULTS!!!!

the less fun part: cleaning, dusting, mopping, moving crap, and dropping shit on your toes. the acts of moving and re-moving equipment were fueled by coffee and an embarrassing amount of after-work wine, both of which I am convinced gave me super human strength (holy shit the D5pro enlarger/baseboard combo is basically an oddly shaped human being). But, yeah, i made it happen, and i didn’t break anything.

DIY Apartment Darkroom Panorama / ©DL Hudson 2015, All Rights Reserved

a few details

Thank Yous

A whole lotta love went into the making of this room, and its existence is only possible due to the generosity of friends, family, and colleagues:

Fred F, Tom F, Mike D, John G, Maria H, Jeff S,

Jarob O, TB, John L, Isaac P, David B,

and all ya’ll internet strangers who inspire me daily.

APARTMENT Darkroom Selfie Gif / DLHUDSON

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Author dre lynn hudson

Dre Lynn Hudson is a Milwaukee native who loves the magic of light, conversation with strangers, and fish tacos. She is drawn to the quirky details of seemingly simple surroundings, and aims to capture the quiet and contemplative moments around her. You can find Dre eating the world with her eyes and keeping rhythm with the shutter. Dre is a freelance commercial photography assistant, who happens to carry her camera everywhere she goes. When she isn't assisting, she is working on a few personal projects to satiate her hungry eyes and eager fingertips.

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