The darkroom is where most of the magic in my life occurs.

You go inside, you turn off the lights, you turn on the chemicals and you get to work. If I had it all my way, I'd spend 10 hours a day locked away in the dark with the scent of fixer staining the insides of my nose green and the developer staining my fingernails permanently black.

I'd also never need drugs.

But we don't always get our way.

The following is what you need to set up a black and white darkroom:

You get all these things, and a spare room to put them in, and you're in business. Oh, and by the way... if anyone in New York City decides to build one of these contraptions, let me know. You just found the key to my heart.

In the dim past, I worked in the printing industry, and spent much of my time in a pre-press darkroom.

One of the most curious things I discovered while looking up reference material (this was an old book even then), is that George Eastman, and Kodak, have copyrighted the word darkroom, as well as terms describing the materials, and processes involved both in general photography, and the photographic process as it relates to offset printing.

It's always interesting what may once have been intellectual property, but has become public domain regardless of its actual legal status; I kinda doubt they'll take any action against everyone who has ever infringed on their copyright.

WickerNipple has pointed out seeing this term on other companies' chemicals--especially Fugifilm I would think. I have no explanation; but I really did see that term as some sort of intellectual property.

I also used the term PMT--photo-mechanical transfer--which is a copyright, or trademark term, all the time when I was in the industry; everyone I worked with did, too.

Isn't it strange how the proprietary becomes the generic?

Ever since I did photography at school, I have wanted my own black and white darkroom. However, I looked around (online photography shop) and it seemed like it would cost well over £300 for the most basic "beginner" kit required, which I just could not afford. This route looked too expensive and too easy, I also figured I would need a room with running water and a sink, because that is what I used at school.

Two weeks ago I read a posting on from someone who had set up a darkroom in their bathroom (it sat on a board he placed over the bath) and other follow-up messages from people who had set up darkrooms in closets and basements with, shock, no running water. With this in mind, I contacted my parents and asked if I could convert the tiny storage room in their cellar into a darkroom (after all, it was already dark). I have picked up almost all the equipment I need for £20 (darkroom equipment is CHEAP right now): enlarger, lens, trays, print dryer, timer. All I need is a big water tank (in lieu of a sink), a safe light, a grain focuser and the software (paper, chemicals) and I will be in business (first print this weekend, hopefully).

I realise that this will never produce professional results, but that was never my goal. In my opinion, there are few things as rewarding as going through the process of making a print, and seeing the image slowly appear in the developing tank. If everything works this weekend, I will be spending the whole time underground breathing in poorly ventilated air and listening to Radiohead and REM making fuzzy pictures for my friends. Anyone out there with even a vague interest in photography with a little bit of money and room to spare owes it to themselves to try developing, it is as close to magic as makes no difference.



There was a time all photographs transformed


in rooms of dim amber light


Film was removed from cameras privately 

but placed into water and specific chemicals

things developed 


dark paper became lighter

images revealed themselves 

a piece of the past was frozen into place


Certain winter mornings

I observe similar magic


Eastern light enters our bedroom gradually

the dark shapes on our bed transform until 

you are next to me:  wrapped in quilts and sleep 


In soft orange/amber light

my favorite dream comes true 


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