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
As 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.
Acquisition #2: Darkroom Estate
♫♪ 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
7 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”
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
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 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.
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.