Into the Light (or Good-Bye to All That)

DR 1113_026_©robinholland

Omega B22 enlarger

Sally Boon Matthews, photographer/artist and photography professor (tall and stylish like Susan, the mutual friend who introduced us), was finally allowed to borrow the college’s van and after more than a year of failed plans, my darkroom was emptied, now officially the storage room it had been become.

My first enlarger, my beloved Omega B22, bought used from a photographer in Soho–my parents helped me move it–when I was just starting out and when I wasn’t confident that it would prove to be $100 well-spent: gone.  The four-bladed 16×20 Saunders easel I’d saved up for: gone.  Ditto another favorite piece of expensive equipment, the Rolls Royce of print washers, a 16×20 Kostiner.

All of it (and a Beseler 45MX, trays, stainless tanks and 35mm and 120 reels, timers–GraLab and Time-O-Lite–grain focuser, safe light, negative carriers, enlarger lenses, variable contrast filters, etc.) sent to York College (a part of CUNY with no budget for equipment) to help young photographers, born digital, learn the foundation, and thrill to the magic of the darkroom.  Which really pleases me.

I hadn’t printed in my darkroom in several years–my big beautiful Epson 7900, always consistent, had taken over the j0b.  But I used to stand in the dark,  listening to the radio, hours at a time over the easel, dodging and burning, a faint orange glow (unlike how bright it is in the movies) coming from the safelight, smells I no longer noticed coming from trays full of toxic chemicals I had long ago chosen not to worry about handling.

Now I sit (and sit) in my office (unergonomically perched, fold-legged on the edge of my Aeron chair)–the lightroom, with two glowing screens, an Eizo with a three-sided hood to keep off extraneous light, and an Apple cinema display, listening to iTunes.  There are no smells (unless a Labrador that needs walking is napping under my desk).  And I use computer photo language–mostly–but when I say editing, I mean choosing the right frame, not making corrections in Photoshop.

DR 1113_077_©robinholland

Trays, timer, liquid measuring containers

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5 Responses to Into the Light (or Good-Bye to All That)

  1. andrew says:

    that enlarger is a piece of art that has made a lot of art. if it wasn’t finding a home where it will be used it would make a beautiful object upstate.

  2. so sad to see it go. I miss my darkroom too.

  3. Sean Sime says:

    Sniff, sniff……. I wasn’t expecting to have such a reaction, but your photograph of the timer and measuring jugs stopped me dead in my tracks. It’s both wonderful and sad; what all photographers saw every time they stepped into the darkroom to begin work. An image that for so many years was one of anticipation and possibility (Did I get the shot? Will my exposures be on?) is now a nostalgic heart-pull, a bird without wings.
    I haven’t been able to get rid of mine, but that’s only because it’s in someone else’s closet.

  4. D. Saunders says:

    Hi dear Robin, too bad I didn’t know you were getting rid of darkroom – I’m putting one together here (although sounds like you had it all well-promised anyway)! Have a room with plumbing for it and everything. Most things in place. I’m actually itching to get in there (never thought I’d say that after the bazillion hours previously spent over the years . . .). I haven’t been in a darkroom for like 8 years.

    Having a darkroom is one of the better-than-ok consolations for living in Brooklyn (actually, in East Williamsburg which is more like an extended neighborhood of Union Square so it’s sort of like Manhattan-burg because I get home faster than friends on the upper west side! Lol)

    See some red words below. Bye!



    Daryl-Ann Saunders Photography

  5. Sarah Russo says:

    This pains me. I had a photography teacher in high school, Mr. Morris, who coached me through four years in the dark room, by far my favorite class. I went to Rutgers for college and you couldn’t hope to get any dark room time if you weren’t enrolled at Mason Gross, the art school, so I didn’t see a dark room again until after a I graduated and signed up for a night photography course at Pratt that gave me unlimited dark room time……my film camera hasn’t left it’s bag in so many years but maybe it’s time to pick it up and sign up for another class. Thanks for posting this Robin! Miss you!

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