If this article leaves you a bit confused it is because it is slightly different from the rest of this site. Despite the word “blog”, I have tried more or less carefully to not talk too much about myself inside. Not that the topic may not be interesting, but because it is something I already indulge in too often. So I would like to talk about what we have been doing with a dear friend of mine.. Having my darkroom has been a dream of mine ever since I started printing a little something back in 2019. Firstly, I think of printing as a necessary component of analog photography, and secondly because I am against spending money to rent one.
Setting up a darkroom in the cellar of the house is something that Andrea and I have been working on for more than two years. The space we have chosen had been arranged for the first time exactly two years ago, the walls painted and we were preparing to open to the public. In reality, we weren’t quite ready, but due to the pandemic, we didn’t have time to notice it. After two years of incomplete works, lockdowns, and endless delays piling up, we have finally completed most of the works and opened it to the public!
The Red (lights) scare!
When we talk about works we are talking about Andrea. Anyone who knows me knows that practical matters are not my specialty. This is a considerable problem when dealing with analog photography, but I would ask you to approach it as I do: ignoring it. The checklist of things to do was wide and varied: how to clean the floors of 30 years of dirt, set up a new shelf, isolate the entire room from light, and so on. However, there were also some fine works, such as checking the effective light resistance of the safety lamps, which proved to be longer than expected. Andrea, however, found some brilliant solutions, such as a plastic anti-splash coating along the wall or a new arrangement of the enlargers. This fussiness - call it extreme care - has brought me to the brink of killing him several times, but overall I can be satisfied.
Andrea, crying tears of joy, or just crying while working.
Once the set-up was finished by the end of the month, all that remained was the testing. The month-end date was not only the symbolic limit of my patience but above all a deadline within which paying guests would enter: it was therefore forbidden to make mistakes. The results are never perfect on the first try, but already from testing, we realized how many past critical issues were now behind us. A tidier, less dusty, and properly organized space certainly promotes better work inside. There will be many improvements to be applied in the coming months, but it will be a matter of improvements, not upheavals.
The real opening, however, was when two people showed up to print their negatives with us. A clarification is necessary here: I do not yet feel like a darkroom master, not even at the most elementary level. However, I consider myself a person who has tried enough in the last 3 years and who has already made all those mistakes typical of the beginner and therefore particularly suited to indicate them to those who want to approach the subject for the first time. What I can therefore offer is a guided tour through the simplest techniques for those wishing to make their first silver prints. We are not professionals, so it is useless to ask ourselves for the skills or the price list of a large studio. If one is interested in that degree of professionalism and has the money to request it, I can only recommend it. Nonetheless, we’d like to improve over time, why not, be able to offer that level of service someday. But let’s get back to us!
First results by Samuele!
The first guided printing session in the darkroom took place on the last Sunday of January and, net of some technical difficulties typical of running-in ended in what I would dare to call a success. Churning out 8 prints in a morning is not easy, especially if they are not your negatives, but I am satisfied with the results obtained and I hope they are the beginning of a longer collaboration. Most of all, however, I am satisfied that this darkroom can gradually become a meeting place rather than a print factory. This is the mission that I want to immediately declare: we will not be a print factory, but we aim to be a place where we meet, exchange ideas, and take pictures. If none of this was done, it would be worth having one more closet and one less darkroom. It is with great joy that we finally invite you to the Lab Innomionato