Number Five – a house I actually owned

Shortly after leaving the security company, my new job required a transfer to another city.  The house we bought had no good place for a darkroom.  However, I was traveling a lot and really didn’t give it much thought.  I did set up in the laundry room occasionally, but there was a window and two doors (the outside one with glass) to deal with.  Plus, there was barely room.

The house also had no place for my wife, a painter, to work.  She needed studio space.  We looked at a number of options, including adding on to the existing house or even purchasing a very small, older house in a nearby run-down neighborhood.  The option that won was to build a separate building on the back of our residential lot.  She got a studio, and I got a darkroom.  We called the building the “Art Dept.”.

The new building was 16 x 24, and two story.  The upper floor was hers, and the lower floor was mine.  I had the option to partition off as much of the lower floor as needed for the darkroom.  The remainder was work space and storage. For some reason that surely must have seemed good at the time, I built the darkroom at 7 x 10 feet.  The darkroom I had left at my previous job was really not functionally any bigger, since it was all on one side.  This seemed to me to give 18-20 feet of linear work area, which was larger than what I had had at the company.

I partitioned off a corner of the lower floor.  In hindsight, I should have extended the partition all of the way across the short end of the building so that the darkroom was 7 x 15 (“nominal 16”), rather than 7 x 10. Hindsight is such a good teacher.

My splurge purchase for this darkroom was an 8-foot sink.  This became the wet side, with a small table to hold the print washer just to the side of the sink.  On the dry side, an old 9-foot door – salvaged off of a neighbor’s trash pile – was repurposed as a counter top over a couple of cheap melamine cabinets.

Heat and AC was supplied by the central system for the building.  A cold water line was run from the main house.  I installed a 2-gallon water heater, but it was never adequate, and after a while simply failed.  The drain was an issue.  In hindsight, I should have used a holding tank with a pump to move the waste water back to the house and into the sewage.  However, I was not aware at the time that such a thing existed., So, I purchased a 200-gallon stock tank (for watering livestock) which fit under the building and drained into the tank, which would then be emptied (using gravity) periodically as needed.  It worked.

Initially, I was still using the Chromega B that I had bought for that first rent house darkroom, but another photographer let me have an old, well-worn but serviceable Omega D5 for not much money.  Both were “color” dichroic heads, but by now I was using variable contrast paper and the color heads took care of the filtration. I also picked up an old Omega B22 somewhere (no doubt free) and I had all three installed. I made all of my exhibition prints for the Texas Church Project and printed my first two portfolios in this darkroom.