My Darkroom

I have always liked the quote of the master printer Ansel Adams  “Photography is like music, the negative is the score and the print is its performance”.

Every performance is different. That’s so true, the prints I do now I are often different from the ones I did a few years ago. Better technique, more experience perhaps, but more likely my mood and interpretation of the image has changed.

Good advice

When I was starting my photographic practice I used to buy my ILFORD materials from the photo department of the Sunwin House Co-Operative store Bradford. It had the best stock of darkroom materials in the city. The man who ran it was an ex darkroom technician. He was always happy to advise and encourage me. He gave me some of the best darkroom advice I have ever had.

  • Be patient, printing is a slow art.
  • Always use the same materials so you really get to know and understand them. Make notes when you get the print you want
  • And paint your darkroom white not black.

All good advice, which has served me well over the years.

It takes time

Good printing always takes more time than you think. I still underestimate the time it might take to get a print that really sings, so now I block off full days to concentrate on printing.

I have always used ILFORD fibre based paper and chemicals I know how they are going to react and I know how to manipulate them to get the results I want.

I have used the same enlarger for 40 years a Devere 504 with an ILFORD multigrade head.

When I get a print exactly as I want it I‘ll print 4 or 5 more. After washing and drying there’s always one that’s not quite right, that one I will write notes on.

Why notes?

It's good practice and saves time and costly materials when printing a particularly tricky neg. It gives me a really informed base to start from. Any further changes and improvements to the print I then write on the original print.

Paint your darkroom white it makes such good sense it gives even and better illumination of the room. Also worktops are great if they can be white.

Try finding a negative dropped on a black worktop in a poorly illuminated darkroom it’s the recipe for a badly scratched negative as you fumble around trying to find it. It amazes me the number of colleges and universities I have taught in that still believe in painting their darkrooms black.

Printing to Music

Make your darkroom as comfortable as possible. I am very lucky as I have a dedicated space with central heating, a good sound system, my vinyl collection and a piano.

It takes one side of an album to produce one print. My archival print washer takes 24 prints so in a days printing I can listen to at least 8 of my favourite albums.