Show Us Your Darkroom #5: David Tatnall
I built my first darkroom under my mother’s house nearly fifty years ago, I made a couple of temporary ones in rented houses after that, before building my current darkroom in my own house twenty five years ago.
The darkroom is 2.7 metres wide by 2.5 meters long built in a solid brick garage attached to the house. The area is covered by a Heritage Overlay, so no external alternations could be made; meaning the width of the space was set at 2.7 meters.
The space has two benches running either side of the 2.5 metre wall. The length of the space was determined by four 16 x 20 trays. I had a custom made sink to fit the four trays with a deep sink at one end. The sink is 650 mm wide x 2.5 meters long. Above the deep sink there is shelving for daylight tanks, film reels and small trays. Under the sink bench I have a set of drying racks for prints, chemical storage, trays and an upright 16 x 20 archival print washer.
The bench on the opposite wall for the enlarger is 800 mm wide x 2.5 meters long. I have storage under the bench for lenses, sheet film holders, photographic paper and trays. On top of the bench storage for photographic paper, burning and dodging tools, note book and small stereo player.
I made the height of the benches 925 mm, a comfortable standing height for me.
There is a light tight air intake under the sink and an exhaust fan in the wall at the end of the sink bench.
Access to the darkroom from my studio is via a sliding door. I found a standard sliding door that slides into a cavity that I lined with ‘draft stopper’ which makes it completely light tight.
I have two safe lights and two white lights, one set over the enlarger bench and one set over the sink bench. They are turned on and off with a pull cord. There is a main white light with a switch by the sliding door.
I’ve tried to make my process of working in the darkroom as simple as possible:
Sheet film is processed in trays, roll film in daylight tanks, hung to air dry from hanging system over sink.
I make contact prints with a single frameless piece of glass.
The enlarger is a Laborator 1200 with a CLS 450 colour head, with 50 mm, 100 mm and 150 mm Componon – S lenses.
Prints are made in the appropriate size trays, and pre washed in a tray with a syphon then transferred to the upright archival print washer.
Prints are then air-dried on nylon flywire racks overnight, then transferred to a press.
I have tried to make the darkroom as ‘green’ as possible. All wastewater is filtered and recycled as grey water. Solar panels help to offset electricity use and rainwater tanks offset water usage. The solid brick building has been well insulated and requires very little heating or cooling.
The size of my darkroom is perfect for my needs, I can easily navigate around it in total darkness. It easy to keep clean and it’s large enough for two workshop students as well.