Friday, June 15, 2012

How to conquer your parents basement and turn it into a darkroom.

Divide and conquer...

Transform and reinvent...

Sweep in and kill the spiders...

Lost yet?  Don't worry, my parents were too for a while.

This summer I made the decision to fly back home for two months and take summer classes, albeit online.  One of my classes is another historical printing process course and thus requires a darkroom. I had looked into the Buffalo area and tried to find a community darkroom at a University or community arts center with no luck.  Being stubborn savvy, I decided to try and take my parents basement and turn it into a makeshift darkroom.

There were three main issues that I needed to resolve before committing to this project.

1.  Light tight.  My parents have six glass block windows that sit ground level to let light come through into the basement.  I had to figure out a way to cover them up in a semi-permanent way.  This was the easiest problem to solve once I bought this product.  Blackout plastic.  Easy to cut, easy to put up with some black ducktape and easy to remove when the time comes.

2.  Chemical disposal.  I had to figure out what processes I am going to use this summer and how to properly dispose of any excess chemicals.  In my case, I will be working with historical processes that are mostly water based developing.  (Cyanotype, Gum Bichromate and Van Dyke Brown)  In the case with VDB, any used fixer that I accumulate will be properly labeled and sent to a local photo lab for disposal.

3.  Exposure.  Figuring out how to create and control UV exposure was my biggest problem.  Working outside with sunlight is too unpredictable, so I knew I'd need an Ultraviolet exposure unit.  I looked into buying one but was shocked by the hefty price tag.  ($600+)  So I enlisted my father to help me put together a simple box with two ballasts attached to the top and a front swinging door.  (I'll put together a post on how he made it tomorrow!)

With these three problems solved, the rest was just a lot of elbow grease, pushing random things into corners of the basement, and avoiding the scary amount of spiders.

And since I have no photographs to illustrate anything of this above [yet], I leave you all with a photograph of my dinner tonight.  Pizza on the grill!  Jim Lahey's dough recipe here.

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