The Royal Photographic Society (UK) has organized an “analogue” group:
I have been doing my own darkroom work since high school and I am now retired. I started in my parents’ house bathroom. After college graduation and the first job, I moved into a rent house that had a darkroom, and then I built one in another rent house, one for an employer, and two in houses that I’ve owned.
My second and first dedicated darkroom was in a rent house just out of college. It was only a coincidence, I did not rent the house because of the darkroom. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I moved in. The landlord had been an avid amateur photographer and had built a dry (no plumbing) darkroom on the back of the laundry room, which was in the carport. The room was about 4×6, with plenty of counter space. Painted flat black on all surfaces except the floor. I don’t remember the floor, but it was likely some kind of sheet vinyl or linoleum.
The room shared its only common wall with the laundry connections. So, it was an easy task to poke through the wall – with the landlord’s permission – and install a second hand kitchen sink and a faucet (with the help of a brother-in-law). Hot and cold running water and a proper drain. Who could ask for more?
There was also no heat or cooling – and no insulation. However, a 4×6 room doesn’t take much. I bought a small electric heater and a used window AC unit. Again with the landlord’s approval, I installed the window unit in the wall. Readers who think air conditioning in a darkroom is unnecessary have never lived in Texas!
With the help of my Dad, we painted the wet side and the ceiling of the little darkroom white. It took at least 4 coats! I left the wall on the dry side behind the enlargers black.
I had bought an Omega Chromega B enlarger, a dichroic color enlarger for up to 6×6 negatives. I had both the Omega and the Lucky installed. At this point I was experimenting with color. I developed color slides and was printing both slides and negatives. However, color just never really “took” with me back then, so after this darkroom, I never set up to do color anymore. But, that’s another blog post.
I also installed an extension telephone. In the years before email, people would actually call you, and it wasn’t a robocall. This proved valuable and fortuitous when I received a call about a positive job change while in the darkroom one day!
After years in the bathroom, this little space was like dying and going to darkroom heaven.
I have been doing my own darkroom work since high school and I am now retired. I started in my parents’ house bathroom. After college graduation and the first job, I moved into a rent house that had a darkroom, and then I built one in another rent house, one for an employer, and two in houses that I’ve owned. This is part 1, of what will be a 6 part series.
My first darkroom was in the bathroom of my parents’ house while I was still living at home. I had other temporary set-ups in a couple of rent houses and apartments along the way, but they were not used more than a few times and are forgettable. However, I learned the basics of the craft in my parents’ hall bath.
For Christmas of my senior year in high school, I received a Sears Home Darkroom Kit, which consisted of a Yankee roll film developing tank with a single adjustable reel, 3 4×5 print trays, a thermometer, a 7.5 watt orange light bulb, and probably a small beaker, funnel and plastic stirring rod. There was also a small pack of 4×5 paper of unknown provenance, and a Kodak Tri-chem pack, suitable for developing either film or paper.
The heart of the kit was a small horizontal enlarger which resembled a mini plastic slide projector. Focusing was done by sliding (yes, sliding) the lens in and out, and it was set up to print on 4×5 paper, in the fixed integrated paper holder, from either 135, 126 (instamatic) or 127 negatives.
I still have the roll film tank, the thermometer and the tiny trays, but none of it gets used, it’s more for sentimental (or historic) reasons. Alas, the enlarger did not survive. It’s too bad, since it would have been quite the conversation piece.
It wasn’t too much later that I invested in a “Testrite” enlarger. I don’t remember, but it was probably a whopping $40-50 (a lot of money to me at the time), including a lens and two negative holders. The company is still in business, but a look at their website shows that they have historically changed product lines about every decade. It was a pretty cheap affair, but quite the upgrade from the Sears toy.
After another couple of years, I bought the entire darkroom of another hobbyist, the main item of which was a Japanese made “Lucky” enlarger, with a couple of decent, if unremarkable, Fuji lenses. (I still have the lenses.)
In the meantime, I had gotten some sort of timer, 8×10 trays, a basic print washer, tongs and other do-dads.
Unfortunately there are no pictures of the set-up, but I do have a few prints that were made in that bathroom all those years ago.
Everything was stored in the bottom half of a hall closet directly across the hall from the bathroom door. So, set-up and tear down was actually pretty minimal. The safelight, such as it was, did get to live in the room permanently, and the folks allowed me to black out the window with aluminum foil, since we didn’t open it anyway. The counter was big enough for the enlarger and print trays. What more could one ask?
A film about Ansel Adams made in 1957 and narrated by Beaumont Newhall.
Here is a more useful FAQ – places for basic information on darkroom set up and operation:
Ilford (many pages – look around the site)
Kodak: Teaching Basic Darkroom Techniques
Kodak: Darkroom Design for Amateur Photographers
Kodak chemicals for processing black-and-white films and papers
Kodak FAQ (photo chemistry)
More from the George Eastman House. A 12 part Youtube series on photographic processes, from the invention in the early 19th Century through digital. Easily watched in less than a hour. Recommended.