Show Us Your Darkroom #9: Enrico Scotece
When did it all start? – Well, my first darkroom was an unused granny flat on my Aunt’s property. She was fab – let me convert the whole thing to a darkroom (Yes, the cool Aunty! Where else was I supposed to put the old massive CB7 Beseler??). Many years have passed since, and although I have not used the CB7 in a while, it still sits stored in that same room to this day.
Think Negative in Sydney is my darkroom and I have been in the current space, in Marrickville, for just over two years. Previously I set up the darkroom and studio space in Sydney’s Leichhardt and needed to expand. What I have now is very spacious.
For me, workflow and ease of use is everything. I cannot emphasise the importance of this. At Think Negative the darkroom is used almost daily and at least four full days a week. The current darkroom is very large. Four plus metres of sink and numerous enlargers occupy the darkroom. The space had to be big enough for demos, personal set-up, and communal set-up. The room is big enough to house/set-up a trestle table in the middle so that I can load the 20×24 film holder with ease when needed! No black curtains, just a walk through ‘s-bend’ light trap as an entrance/exit. This also has an internal door installed for when loading film.
The sinks are designed to accommodate trays up to 20×24 inch (it’s the largest I make photographs, nothing larger). Archival washers also live in the sinks. One sink is a little narrower than the other. The narrow sink has a shelf in front as part of the make up of the bench so as to allow for the easy mixing of chemicals as well as for workshop participants to rest their notebooks on etc. The shelf is the exact width of my magnetic stirrer – again, workflow and ease of use. A power board sits neatly attached to the sidewall of the splash back.
All hot water is accessed via the small hotwater heater that I switch off to conserve energy within the first two hours of any session (ie. once heated we’re good for hours!) All plumbing to the sinks is external and multiple taps are situated in various areas. A third sink is just outside the darkroom in the work/studio area and this acts as a mixing sink as well as a viewing panel.
Shelving above the sink for all wet material (trays, reels, tanks etc) as well as for hanging large sheets of film for drying. At the end of the sink is a film dryer for roll film.
Safelights are a ‘bank’ of lights that I project upwards for a bright and ‘easy on the eyes’ environment. I have two of these and wouldn’t trade them for anything! I think I have the countries largest collection of unused Ilford safelight housings… I just don’t use them anymore.
All chemicals are stored below the sinks with various toners, restrainers, and other additives above sink within reach. Film is processed by hand or machine (depends what it is) and I rely on Jobo Expert drums for the sheet film. I have moved a Jobo ATL3 in there recently also.
Enlargers are all Durst. L1200s, Modular 70s, 138s etc. Proofing/Contact station, flashing station, and some enlargers dedicated to particular formats are located around the room. The main bench is large and long and holds the L1200s since they are heavy machines. I built this bench for the Leichhardt premises and until we had to move it I didn’t realise it weighs a ton! It holds the enlargers with ease and with enough space around and below to work comfortably.
Each ‘station’ has various idiosyncratic notes and ‘data’ taped to the panels. My thinking from day one was that if other people want to use my darkroom on a regular basis then let them (to a certain extent) make that station their own. The Durst’s are easy to use and precise. They never misalign. The modular 70s are like mini L1200s and the 138s are great for film as well as printing from glass plates. Easels, a mixture of four blade and RRB Photon Beards.
The finishing area is mostly taken up by the huge Ademco heat press. I have moved this thing three times (with the much appreciated help of Paul Dorahy). It’s big and solid steel. It now lives on its own set of ‘wheels’. I vouch to never lift that thing again. The finishing area allows for spotting, pressing and mounting. This area also accommodates the large metal squeegee panel and drying racks. All photographs are air dried on nylon wire screens. The sizes of the screens are designed to hold eight 8x10s comfortably or the 20x24s.
That’s about it! The rest of the studio is a filled with backdrop, gallery space, lighting etc and my morning saviour – the old Pavoni espresso machine.
Enrico Scotece, Think Negative