Goodbye Darkroom.

Shot in Carpinteria, CA.

Oh this is sad.

My wife insisted we clean out the laundry room. Why is that sad? Well it’s a really big laundry room, and it has also functioned as my darkroom for the past few years. Except, well…the darkroom hasn’t gone dark very often lately. Maybe once in the last year have I actually done any ‘old school’ photographic printing, or even ‘older school’ alternative printing such as kallitypes.

[click “continue reading” below for more…]

Now to be fair, my wife only insisted we clean it out and get rid of the junk. She didn’t insist that I get rid of any darkroom stuff. But when I contemplated cleaning it all out, I realized there wasn’t much point in saving a lot of this stuff that I wasn’t using. My business takes just about all of my time, and I just don’t get time to dabble with printing anymore. And realistically, it was always a chore. I didn’t do it often enough to keep chemicals mixed all the time. So I spent hours preparing for what may or may not have been a successful printing episode. I had a better time when I took some printing classes at the local community college, because I could just walk in and start printing. Didn’t even have to turn the lights off, as someone else had taken care of that.

I’m sad though because this was part of what defined my photography when it was a hobby. Especially the circa-1800s printing technique called ‘kallitype’. I love the way those prints look, and love the fact that they’ll last a few hundred years. When I made these, I wasn’t just a photographer, and I wasn’t just a film photographer…I was a kallitypist for crissakes! I mixed foul and noxious chemicals, coated expensive paper with said chemicals by hand, and toiled for hours to get maybe three or four good prints. That’s macho photography, not some wimpy shoot-and-download photography.

I also had an enlarger, for more ‘normal’ silver gelatin black and white printing. I used it a little, although I found it almost as laborious. Had I done it more often, it would have been easier. Had I done it more often, I would have done it more often!

So I made the decision that traditional printing, at least for the foreseeable future, was a thing of the past.

Fortunately, I like waaaaay too many things about photography. Traditional printing. Photoshop manipulation. Film photography. Digital photography. Building cameras. Buying cameras. 🙂 And when I discovered a few years ago that I really like taking pictures of people, the nerdy mad-scientist stuff just gradually faded into the background. Some amount of specialization is necessary if you’re going to become good at something. And even more so if you hope to make a living doing it!

However I must point out that I have not given up shooting on film! Processing black and white film doesn’t require a darkroom, merely a film-changing bag and a bathroom with chemicals in it. And color film is sent to the lab. I love film too much to give it up, although even that pursuit has dropped off a bit. I squeeze some film into most client shoots I do, mostly for my own amusement. And I shoot film whenever I’m shooting for myself, for ‘art’ or even for family snapshots. As I’m fond of saying, “I never use digital around family or friends.” Which of course is an exaggeration.

So to commemorate this momentous watershed moment, here are a few alternative process prints I made in that laundry room.

This one won first place at the Santa Paula Arts Festival (or whatever it's called).

A wetlands area in Homer, Alaska. Actually shot on a digital camera and then printed as a kallitype.

This is a cyanotype print, which is much easier to do but does not have the longevity of a kallitype. Oh and it's always blue, blue, blue!

One thought on “Goodbye Darkroom.

  1. For those in our area (Rochester, NY – home of photography) who are still fond of the traditional, our studios let you take the creative juices and produce cyanotype, Van Dyke brown, wet-plate collodion, traditional black and white prints on beautiful paper of your own choosing. Take classes, use the darkrooms and lighting studios, keep in touch with your senses….and support artists through shows, special events and opportunities for the next generation of photographers in our special youth programs.

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