Show Us Your Darkroom #4: Tom Goldner/The Fox Darkroom

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Another week, another darkroom! Tom Goldner’s The Fox Darkroom in Kensington, Melbourne.

I started construction of The Fox Darkroom in June 2014, I can honestly say it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life thus far.  We are located within a huge and beautiful old wool stall in the heart of industrial Kensington.  It’s such an iconic part of Melbourne that it was important for me to create a space that was in harmony with its surroundings.  When I had the idea to build I was exploring all kinds of spaces with power and water access.  I looked at lots of dingy parking garages and finally came across my current location. The first time I walked into the Young Husband Wool Stalls it truly was a blank canvas, luckily I had the foresight to see its potential. 

Here at The Fox Darkroom we run workshops teaching traditional process.  Currently we offer workshops specialising in black and white film photography, developing and printing.  Apart from the workshops I am working at building a community of darkroom enthusiasts where people can join as members and use the facilities in their own time.  The darkroom has been designed to comfortably cater for five people at a time with formats ranging from 35mm right up to 8×10 inches.

The Fox Darkroom consists of two separate work areas – the workshop and the darkroom.

The workshop

As the name suggests this area is used to host our groups for the workshops we run most Saturdays. It houses a meeting table, developing/toning sink, drying rack, film drying cabinet, a photographic library, finishing table, my desk and comes complete with record player, couch, guitar and fridge bursting with film.  I had so much fun constructing this part of The Fox Darkroom. The workshop has been styled with a New York apartment feel, which is complimentary to the area that surrounds us.  My aim was to create a space that is both nostalgic and provides plenty of visual stimulants. I’m a lover of old photographic relics and plenty can be found in this space. Above all I wanted an environment where people wanted spend time and hang out.  This space is regularly rented out for film and television productions.  I never expected this to be a source of revenue when I built so it was a pleasant surprise.

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The darkroom

The darkroom adjoins the workshop area by a rotating darkroom door (this is always a talking point for visitors).  The darkroom is purely a place of functionality. Other darkrooms I have visited over the years are generally cluttered and ugly. I wanted a clean space that is free from clutter that is also comfortable and safe.  One of the great joys of constructing the darkroom was sourcing the equipment; everything in this space has had a past life. Many of the items were long forgotten or headed for the dumpster.  The heart of my darkroom is my colossal PVC sink which was kindly donated by PIC (photographic imaging college).  It’s a little misshaped due to it sitting in a hot storage shed for a bunch of years but trust me when I tell you that you can never have enough sink space.   A friend of mine constructed the workstations that house the enlargers.  Having somebody craft this specific to the available space is priceless.  I have a range of enlargers, mostly Durst and Meopta. The 35mm enlargers are mostly used for the workshops, the big ticket items are the Durst Laborator 1200 (AKA Fred Durst), the Durst Laborator 138S (AKA Elvis) and the Durst Laborator 184 (AKA Optimus Prime).  I scored the enlargers from old schools, personal donations, ebay, gumtree and from darkrooms that have now closed shop.  I spent a bit extra on a good ventilation system, light proof louvers from B&H and exhaust fans.  Storage is always going to be a challenge for darkrooms; I have ample storage under the sink, under the enlarger stations and a freestanding rack.   I am always endeavouring to improve functionality in my darkroom; last weekend I installed a squeegee board above the sink, which will be put to good use.  A good sound system is important in this area too.

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We have a strong partnership with Ilford so for the most part our chemistry, paper and film reflects this arrangement. We also have a large stock of Kentmere paper and other bits that I inherited along the way but Ilford is my preference.  It was the first film and paper I used when starting out with film photography and their product has always been used in my personal work.  I am fan of their products and value their commitment in keeping the practice alive, that’s why I use them.

If some budding darkroom enthusiasts were looking for advice I would tell them to consider carefully how best to use the space available. Setting up a darkroom doesn’t need to be difficult but setting up a safe, comfortable and functional workspace can take further consideration.  It really is such a rewarding experience, build your own or come and hang out at mine!

Find out more about The Fox Darkroom at their website or Facebook page.

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