August 30, 2008

My Darkroom Was Magic

Posted in authored by John Gohde tagged , at 3:48 pm by John Gohde

During the 1960s darkroom work was actually quite economical. The price of silver had not yet gone through the roof. Computers for the most part were still using transistors.  And, were known as mainframes.   And, black and white photography was still very much in vogue, recalls John H. Gohde.

Getting into the darkroom business cost next to nothing back then.  Every K-Mart Department store actually carried a darkroom department that featured a nice selection of darkroom equipment and supplies at very reasonable prices.  There was never any need to  hunt for a photography specialty store.

Basic Darkroom Equipment & Supplies

Basic Darkroom Equipment & Supplies

John H. Gohde got interested in darkroom work by reading a book on the subject.   With next to no darkroom knowledge he purchased a tiny yellow safetlight, three 5×7 plastic trays,  a packet of photo paper, a darkroom thermometer, and a handful of darkroom chemicals.  John stuffed a bath towel over the bathroom window, and presto he was in the darkroom business as a teenager.  And, started out by making contact prints of old negatives.

The Darkroom Was Pure Magic

Watching pictures develop gradually in the trays was pure magic for John.  His family really could not have given a hoot about it.  But, he found it very fascinating. You slipped a negative and photo paper sandwich under a piece of glass that was borrowed from a picture frame.  Then all you had to do was exposed it to light for a few seconds.

First the exposed photo paper was slipped into the developer tray.  When the image on the paper darken sufficiently after about one minute.  You took it out and slipped it into the stop bath, which contained some type of acid that instantly stopped the developer from developing.  Then, you put the print into the fixer bath which made the image permanent.  Finally, you had to wash the finished picture under running water for perhaps 20 minutes to prevent the fixer from turning the prints yellow.  The prints were dried in some type of paper blotter.  While in the movies, they always would show 8×10 prints drying on a clothes line, that type of drying process never yielded good results for John.

John H. Gohde Developed Film

Safelight for Developing Film

Safelight for Developing Film

Developing film, however, proved to be quite a challenge.  You were suppose to unroll your film in total darkness and then thread the plastic strip of film onto a film spool which you then in turn put into a small round plastic tank.  Screwed the lid on.  At which point, you could turn the room light on and pour chemicals into the film tank, one at a time.   Later on John discovered that you could take peaks at undeveloped film with a red safetlight.  His first red safety light was a very ordinary red Christmas tree light bulb, which actually worked fairly well.

John eventually switched to using a Kodak film tank that used a plastic film apron rather than a film spool.  Try as he might, John could never manage to thread his 127 size film onto the plastic film spool properly without toughing the film together. Which resulted in most of the pictures being ruined during the development process.  John found the Kodak film tank product much easier to work with.



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