This post is by Ron Dawson from The Online Photographer

This is a rather odd fact. Despite having worked in some nice professional, studio, and school darkrooms, and having had many darkrooms myself over the years, I never had a single nice darkroom of my own in my whole life. They were all makeshift, many small and a few tiny, some literally dank and shared with the spiders. I made do in all of ’em except one…the one in my one-room Georgetown walk-up apartment, which was just too hair-shirt to work in at all. I used to say I could do good work anywhere, but not quite. Almost.


The picture is a recent real estate photograph of the very spot where I first learned to print my own photographs. That open door directly under the stairs leads to a small bathroom with a shower stall. I spent hours and hours in there experimenting! We moved there in ’75. Of course, when we lived there, the basement was unfinished—the walls were cinder-block, the ceiling open to the joists and ducts and pipes, the floor concrete, and the lally columns bare. The only thing you would have seen out in the open, where the chairs and coffee table are now, was my late brother Scott’s ping-pong table, as we called it (the proper name is table tennis), where he used to regularly trounce me. He was better at pool than I was, too, but we had to leave our pool table behind when we left Milwaukee and never got another one.

How strange that you can now instantly find pictures of the inside of houses you lived in decades ago.


Original contents copyright 2024 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. (To see all the comments, click on the “Comments” link below or on the title of this post.)

Featured Comments from:

David Drake: “I still dream of having a ‘real’ darkroom. With my last one, I shared the small space with a washing machine and dryer. To get from the enlarger to the sink I had to crawl between racks of drying clothes. The tiny bathroom was used as a film changing room. I have to say that my ex-wife was patient with the circumstances, but it wasn’t ideal for anyone that’s for sure. Some day, I still want a nice little darkroom for doing B&W printing and alternative processes. For the time being, I’m learning Affinity Photo.”

Mark Sampson: “Many fine photographs have been made in makeshift darkrooms; Paul Strand went without one, for example. Not to mention the legendary ‘Paris hotel room darkroom’ of photojournalists’ lore. But a darkroom (I’ve built two of my own) is an extremely valuable tool for the photographer who works with B&W film; not least for the convenience of operation that it offers. In my own small darkroom, I can work any time I choose, a distinct advantage. And I have a consistent setup that allows for easy production of prints. Access to other lab spaces (institutional, commercial, or borrowed) is a distant second-best option. I’ve done that too, when my living situation made it necessary.”


Related Stories