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Thread: A really nice lab apron

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    538

    A really nice lab apron

    I have already written about my days as an 8x10 b&w studio product photographer. I told you we (staff photographers) each tray developed our own film as we shot it, but we didnít make all those Azo contact prints. We had Aggie to do that.

    Aggie had, in her youth, chased Generals all over Europe with an OD Speed Graphic during WWII. After the war, she returned to Springfield and worked for years, making drugstore deckle-edged b&w prints by hand, by the thousands. Aggie was the best commercial printer I ever met. She taught me everything I know about working efficiently in the darkroom.

    One of her best tricks was shuffle-developing a dozen or more 8x10 prints in a deep tank of Dektol. Batch after batch after batch. Hour after hour without a break. The tricky part was handling the dry paper with a dry hand while agitating the wet prints with a wet hand. (You could probably do this with 8x10 sheet film as well.)

    Aggieís method was to always buy lined rubber gloves at least two sizes too big. She could then slip her hand into a wet glove draped over the lab sink front rail without having to use her other dry hand to pull it on. Gravity did the job. In a like manner, she could shake the glove off when it was time to go back to the printer and expose more paper with two dry hands.

    Another trick was to keep a genuine Kodak 2-quart glass darkroom beaker full of fresh water in the corner of the sink. Aggie would dip her gloved hand into the water to rinse off the fixer before returning to handle prints in the developer. Same technique as having two print tongs.

    Just like any other business, that studio had occasional slow days with no work for the troops. The owner used to go crazy when he saw us hanging around, idle. Aggie, an Army veteran, of course had a solution for that problem as well. She used to save all of her test prints in a large box on a shelf in a dark corner of her lab. When things were slow, she would get them all out and run them through the massive stainless print washer and then feed them through the big Pako gas-fired drum dryer. Some of those prints had been washed and dried several times. But the owner never seemed to catch on.

    Getting to the subject of this post, Aggie always wore a 14-ounce denim apron. Years of experience had taught her that rubber aprons were hot, stiff and heavy. Good quality denim did a perfectly adequate job of catching small chemical spills.

    I have looked for years to find an apron just like the one she wore back then. And Iíve finally found it. The maker is The Morgan Company, 2057 Smith Flat Cemetery Road, Placerville, CA. The owner is Vince Munoz-Plaza.

    Several models are made, in white, green or blue heavy fabric. Piped all around the edge. Two pocket configurations. Real sturdy, and a nice job of stitching (I know from experience: my wife sews). Same apron as the one Shopsmith sells.

    I got two, in the Shopmaster Denim style. One for the lab and another for shooting. Vince made them extra big (at no extra charge) to accommodate my portly girth. Pockets are just right for 4x5 holders, meters, magnifiers, etc. You even get hammer loops to deal with more serious problems. ;0)

    The web address is:

    http://www.aprons.net/index.html

  2. #2

    A really nice lab apron

    Thanks John. I will take advantage of your wealth of experience and acquire one of these gems.

    Don't know if it is just a talkative phase you are currently going through, but I for one appreciate the dialog. As my friend Richard is fond of saying " Pass It On".

    Cheers and Best Wishes!

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    A really nice lab apron

    Back when I was with the National Park Service, I spent serious stretches contact printing 5x7 negatives in the darkroom. As the NPS had no darkroom of its own, I was able to work in my own darkroom, and could equip it and dress myself as I liked.

    Working in relative isolation, I opted for comfort as well as practicality. My favorite printing apron was an old plaid bathrobe, often complimented by fluffy bunny slippers. (Yes, seriously.) Add a good stereo system and a bottomless bowl of popcorn, and I could print for hours without complaint. I did once try putting a b/w tv with a safelight filter over the screen in the darkroom (suggested to me by Barbara Crane), but found I couldn't concentrate on the printing. The old vinyl lp's (Van Morrison, Moody Blues, Neil Young...) had no such deterious effects, even at high volume levels.

    Much of those years was spent printing the negatives of George Grant, the first NPS photographer, who's serious work spanned from 1929 to 1954, mostly in the western National Parks. He worked primarily in 5x7, with a little whole plate format early on. Much of his work was quite beautifully seen and crafted; I'm sad that he is largely unknown today.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    God's Country
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    A really nice lab apron

    John,

    I'll whole-heartedly second Michael's comments....

    Love the dialog too!

    Cheers
    Life in the fast lane!

  5. #5

    A really nice lab apron

    Mark, where can we see George Grant's work? I am sure he is like many other great photographers--largely unknown. ( And now the rest of today's great photographers have their own web sites and very few of them are known either. )

    Frank

  6. #6
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2000
    Location
    Honolulu, Hawai'i
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    4,539

    A really nice lab apron

    Just like any other business, that studio had occasional slow days with no work for the troops. The owner used to go crazy when he saw us hanging around, idle. Aggie, an Army veteran, of course had a solution for that problem as well. She used to save all of her test prints in a large box on a shelf in a dark corner of her lab. When things were slow, she would get them all out and run them through the massive stainless print washer and then feed them through the big Pako gas-fired drum dryer. Some of those prints had been washed and dried several times. But the owner never seemed to catch on.

    It seems the military followed uniform procedures in this regard. My father tells a story of how he and one of his buddies in the National Guard used to dump out a trash barrel and sweep it up over and over again on the base so they would always look busy.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Posts
    538

    A really nice lab apron

    Thanks, guys, for your kind replies.

    My chattiness is about to cease as Honey-do Season is now upon us.

    Talk to you all again, after the paint dries.

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