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swmcl
26-Feb-2014, 14:16
but I'll try to give it a go.

I realise that this forum will have any number of 'religious fanatics' - religious about LF and film that is ... but I am on a bit of an edge. A "Do I, or don't I ?" kind of edge.

Given the current state of the industry - the new Harman papers, the fall of manufacturers, the slight increase in take up in analog photography etc, etc. would you recommend investing into a darkroom of more serious dimensions ?

In another way, can the digital printing world really produce an archive print ? Is it only a matter of time ?

I think the archivability is the only real issue that might separate the analogue and digital worlds to be honest. To the ordinary person off the street I'm sure that the digital simulation is good enough and quite frankly, they probably assume it is digital. I'm not sure they value analogue. Museum curators value longevity. There is no argument from the analogue side but are these curators happy with digital ?

So. Please just the cold hard facts. Try to keep the belief systems at bay !

Let's say a figure of 15 - 20k for the darkroom cost - that should keep some emotions out of it! Would you do it ?

I guess at that figure you'd want to be getting a return on investment even if that return were to take 5 - 8 years to be realised so that means making it a hired darkroom.

I'm thinking its all a bit much really but I'd value some insight especially if you think there is a niche market or product that can be gained through the darkroom process.

Cheers !

Steve

Darin Boville
26-Feb-2014, 14:22
Do whatever you and your work requires. Museum curators won't hinge their decision to acquire or exhibit based on inkjet vs traditional.

You do your thing and let them worry about their thing.

--Darin

Jeff Dexheimer
26-Feb-2014, 14:24
I put together a darkroom for under $500. I print up to 16x20. It would have cost me at least $2000 to do that digitally

lenser
26-Feb-2014, 14:26
I'm not qualified to speak to the archival qualities of digital, so I will only say that I have four enlargers that I hope to soon install in a production darkroom with two sinks and an attached work room for mounting, spotting, etc. It may or may not happen, but I want it and my soul needs it. I personally simply love the analog work and find none of the joy in digital work. Just my opinion and nothing judgmental about digital...simply my response to the two worlds.

MDR
26-Feb-2014, 14:27
Regarding the costs of a darkroom they are much lower than your estimate of 15-20k one thing the digital revolution has done is lowered the prices of pre-owned darkroom equipment a good enlarger can be had for hundreds instead of thousands of dollars. In the end the important thing is what you prefer and which workflow you like better. Curators prefer archival processes but if the photographer is important enough or the work good enought they care a lot less.

swmcl
26-Feb-2014, 14:40
Guys,

I realise the costs of buying darkroom gear has been lowered. But if you start with a negative larger that 4x5 things are a bit different. Especially when the only options are to buy in from overseas. I think I've got a snowflakes chance of finding a good enlarger for 5x7 or 8x10 in Aus. These enlargers are also a real pain in the vertical format because of the height issues. So that means a horizontal format machine. Do you know how difficult that is to find in Aus ??!!

I have been given a lowered price for an enlarger in the UK but we are talking 10 - 12k after shipping and taxes.

Its getting so expensive it needs a business case. It is going beyond the personal 'thing'.

:-)

IanG
26-Feb-2014, 14:52
I'm about to build a new darkroom, too long a story but I moved abroad in 2006 and had limited access to my old darkroom after that.

In recent months/past year I've acquired 3 enlargers for free (inc LF 5x4 although I gave the same away 7-8 years ago). I already have others (it'll be a teaching darkroom). Even factoring what I've paid for a De Vere 5108 etc I'd be looking at $2000 maximum cost.

I can print digital or analogue, to similar quality.I just prefer darkroom prints.

Ian

Drew Wiley
26-Feb-2014, 14:56
Do what you like to do, or else you won't do it well to begin with, or take the trouble to master it, which will take a lot of time and committment, regardless. Just
having the gear is only the starting gate to the race. That is a cold hard fact. Next fact: darkroom gear is cheaper than ever and some of it seems to last forever. Sometimes you can get industrial quality machines for downright free. Third fact: there are currently no supply issues either with conventional black and white films and papers or RA4 color products. But I obviously don't know the specific complications of all this in AUS. Look up a fellow named Andy Cross. He does it all down
there - digital, conventional color darkroom, even dye transfer and color carbon.

bob carnie
26-Feb-2014, 15:21
Build the darkroom, buy lots of paper for printing and go for it .

Guys,

I realise the costs of buying darkroom gear has been lowered. But if you start with a negative larger that 4x5 things are a bit different. Especially when the only options are to buy in from overseas. I think I've got a snowflakes chance of finding a good enlarger for 5x7 or 8x10 in Aus. These enlargers are also a real pain in the vertical format because of the height issues. So that means a horizontal format machine. Do you know how difficult that is to find in Aus ??!!

I have been given a lowered price for an enlarger in the UK but we are talking 10 - 12k after shipping and taxes.

Its getting so expensive it needs a business case. It is going beyond the personal 'thing'.

:-)

Laura_Campbell
26-Feb-2014, 15:40
Guys,

I realise the costs of buying darkroom gear has been lowered. But if you start with a negative larger that 4x5 things are a bit different. Especially when the only options are to buy in from overseas. I think I've got a snowflakes chance of finding a good enlarger for 5x7 or 8x10 in Aus. These enlargers are also a real pain in the vertical format because of the height issues. So that means a horizontal format machine. Do you know how difficult that is to find in Aus ??!!

I have been given a lowered price for an enlarger in the UK but we are talking 10 - 12k after shipping and taxes.

Its getting so expensive it needs a business case. It is going beyond the personal 'thing'.

:-)

Contact Gordon Undy at Point Light Gallery in Sydney. He may be able to provide a lead or two on finding LF enlargers in Australia. Hope this helps.

sanking
26-Feb-2014, 15:41
Drew,

Do you have a link to Andy Cross? I tried to look him up but did not find a reference to color carbon?

Sandy

blueribbontea
26-Feb-2014, 15:46
We tore down two dilapidated garages and built a new 16X10 ft darkroom from the ground up a year and a half ago. The advantages have been enormous. Never satisfied with glossy inkjet papers, now the Epson only prints matte. Galerie and Ilford Warmtone are so much nicer to work with. We do contact printing with AZO and Lodima and we are also doing platimum-palladium, cyanotype and Gum printing, all possible because we have a nice working darkroom. Just about to start printing on a horizontal 5X7 enlarger (we shoot 8X10, 5X7, 4X5 and 2X3) we have no second thoughts about our decision to invest in the darkroom.

Bill (and Kathy)

Randy Moe
26-Feb-2014, 15:47
I have put together a very good darkroom, with too many enlargers. I will cull later.

I have everything anybody could dream about for analogue B&W and have spent far far less then 10K.

The trick is to shop gear correctly. Research the market and needed items. I have bought nothing new and much of what I have is in excellent to NOS condition.

Spread the word in your local area and far beyond. Network all your contacts. The darkroom of your dreams will happen, if you seek hard enough. Took me 2 years.

Andrew O'Neill
26-Feb-2014, 16:17
I would say yes, go for it. I'm glad I did. I have a darkroom and a lightroom. Love the ability to go hybrid when I need to (I Don't print digitally, though).

brucetaylor
26-Feb-2014, 16:21
Its getting so expensive it needs a business case. It is going beyond the personal 'thing'.



If it's beyond "personal" and needs a business case to justify the cost, then you need to build a business case. That will require hard research, not opinions from the likes of us. What you're talking about is return on investment, ROI. Are you currently selling your work through galleries or privately in sufficient volume to justify a $20k darkroom build? Is this work that you currently farm out to others? If it is, how many dollars do you need to invest in each print (printing, framing) to make your sale item (I am assuming your labor is not free, you need to get paid). Take that number and multiply by anticipated (from some sort of sales history) sales numbers. That's your cost whether you do it or you pay someone else. After expenses (paper, frames, etc) does that number produce the financial return you want for the darkroom and/or digital investment?

If you're not an established artist currently selling work then I don't think you can make a business case. It's just a hopeful guess, do it or do not. Without being too harsh, if you're not established and you are trying to sell your artwork to cover or defray your darkroom expense just don't figure the money is going to come back to you from print sales. Who knows, you might be a star, but 99.9% are not.

Then there is the whole issue of mixing art and commerce. How do you feel about it? If you want your work to make back a $20k investment in a reasonable period if time you're going to need to be hitting the commerce side hard. Is that what you want? I'm not making any judgements either way, I don't have a horse in the race.

I will say that from my own personal place that art and commerce do not mix. I do both, and they need to stay separate for me to be happy doing each one. YMMV, my 2 cents.

stormpetrel
26-Feb-2014, 16:27
Got my durst 139 (5x7 enlarger) here in New Zealand for less than NZ$1k. Total cost of my darkroom ~NZ$3k (including stereo, computer, glassware, ph-meter, magnetic stirrer, furniture, chemicals for DIY developer & wet plate collodion)
I agree with you, it is not an easy task to find a large format enlarger in our countries. It took me more than one year to get one!
Spread the word among "serious" photographers. Ask to museums and art schools (our National museum gave a massive 8x10 enlarger few years ago). Look on ebay people selling large format gears in Australia and ask them if they have an enlarger to sell (this is how I get mine).
Good hunt!
If you are interested to buy from NZ, I could send you the email of the guy who sold me the durst. He might have some 8x10 enlargers to sell.

Dominique

Maris Rusis
26-Feb-2014, 18:01
Do the darkroom. The difference between making pictures out of light-sensitive materials and doing computer print-outs goes much much deeper than archival considerations.

I budgeted and spent $5000 on my latest darkroom. This included building walls, installing plumbing, lots of electrical outlets, a split system air conditioner, and a nice sound system. I spend several hundred hours in the darkroom every year and I reckon I deserve a really comfortable workspace. My first darkroom was in Toowoomba and I did it really cheap. I also learned the truth of the old saying: your first darkroom you build for an enemy, the second for a friend, and the third for yourself.

Don't spend too much on enlargers. All mine, 8x10, 5x7, 4x5, and 35mm came for free from people thinking of sending them to landfill. And the trays, safelights, easels, etc were free too. It was just a case of looking around, asking, and waiting for bargains to surface.

Kodachrome25
26-Feb-2014, 18:19
I'm thinking its all a bit much really but I'd value some insight especially if you think there is a niche market or product that can be gained through the darkroom process.

If you are able to produce top notch work, then sure, go for it. I don't see the real darkroom being pushed aside by the Lightroom, ever. It's just an entirely different life as a photographer, trust me on that one, I have used digital for over 20 years and it does nothing for me like film and the darkroom does.

But again....are you good? Because if you are and the work is stunning, really interested parties will almost always ask how it was done and what a lot of fun it is to say it is *not* digital.

AuditorOne
26-Feb-2014, 19:10
I think the most important point has already been made. Printing is a demanding activity and will require you to dedicate your time to learning it if you want to learn it well. I personally had to make the same decision just a short time ago. I had my feet in both camps and was not at all happy with my results no matter what I did. I have decided to focus my attention on analogue so I am working at rebuilding my darkroom. I am not trying to say my decision is the best, either for me or for you. But I did learn that I do not have time to become good at both. I have to focus on just one. And that is the direction I have gone. What pushed me over to analogue was pretty simple. I am a traditional woodworker and I like creating things with my hands. Creating on computer just doesn't feel the same to me. Your preferences may be different.

Good luck with your decision. Don't worry about what others are doing and don't worry about the difficulty. How do YOU see yourself working in your dreams? That is where you should go.

Randy Moe
26-Feb-2014, 19:18
+1.

jp
26-Feb-2014, 19:28
I'm not a fanatic about analog and film.

If your goal is color, digital output is likely the most practical way forward.

If your goal is B&W or alt process styles, a darkroom can be a modest one-time expense that will far outlast any epson printer. I've got about $2k into what I think is a really good darkroom.

If you need the computer to do retouching, special curves, digital negatives, whatever, that's fine, but you can still create handcrafted final output if that's an intermediate step. I think the "hand crafted" element is more important that archivalness comparing digital and darkroom. Would you rather have a handmade painting created from a photo the painter took, or a scan of a photo with a painterly plugin-filter applied in photoshop to distort the photo and output on canvas? That's what I thought.

Unless you're someone really special, museums probably won't worry about our work's archivalness because they won't be after it. But it's still good to do whatever we do as if we want the finished product to outlast ourselves.

Jim Galli
26-Feb-2014, 20:18
I think your question is; can a rational business model be argued?

Not really. Without religious fervor / your term for irrational behavior, not mine, you probably can't find a way to get there.

swmcl
26-Feb-2014, 22:07
Thanks for the replies.

The archival issue for me is important because I can't see any point in going any distance for something that doesn't last. Even if its only contact prints at least they will last.

The business case comes from renting out the equipment - not from me selling prints so much. Lower costs means I can just let others use it but at 15k or so I don't think the wifey is going to participate !!

To me, there is a clear case for the use of LF cameras. On the capture side of things there is no argument but on the printing side there are more options and possibilities.

Cheers,

Steve

Paul Ewins
26-Feb-2014, 22:30
Steve, an 8x10 enlarger is probably a pipe dream but the 5x7 Durst 138/139 are just as common as any 4x5 enlarger. Admittedly that might involve a road trip or freight from Sydney but that would be true of a 4x5 enlarger too. The basic rule is that the perfect enlarger only crops up at the wrong time or in the wrong place. They do need to stand on the floor, but otherwise aren't outrageously tall and should be fine under a standard roof. I brought one home in the back of my station wagon and was able to manoeuvre it in and out by myself and then wheel it about on a standard hand trolley.

angusparker
27-Feb-2014, 00:24
Here's the direction I'm going in: I have a 4x5 enlarger (because they are smaller, easy to find and use). Anything bigger can be contact printed either directly (8x10) or with a digitally enlarged negative (16x20) - so you still have an analogue output which is archival but you've cut out the expense and space needed for an 8x10 enlarger. I've found the Epson V750 makes pretty good scans for 4x5 and 8x10 but you can also send out for a drum scan for really big enlargements.

jumanji
27-Feb-2014, 01:55
If you think building a darkroom in Aus is hard, how's my public rental darkroom here (just opened a few days ago) in Vietnam? :rolleyes:
Btw a few months ago, a friend of mine come back from Oz with a Leitz V35 that he got for a cheap price.

Dan Dozer
28-Feb-2014, 08:41
I converted my old 8 x 10 Kodak 2D camera into a horizontal enlarger (and can still use the camera also). I already had the camera, found a used cold light head for about $200, used materials laying around in the garage for the base and frame, cut the septum out of an old wooden 8 x 10 film holder for my negative holder, and found a 300mm Rodenstock lens on the auction site for about $50. Total cost was under $300.



Guys,

I realise the costs of buying darkroom gear has been lowered. But if you start with a negative larger that 4x5 things are a bit different. Especially when the only options are to buy in from overseas. I think I've got a snowflakes chance of finding a good enlarger for 5x7 or 8x10 in Aus. These enlargers are also a real pain in the vertical format because of the height issues. So that means a horizontal format machine. Do you know how difficult that is to find in Aus ??!!

I have been given a lowered price for an enlarger in the UK but we are talking 10 - 12k after shipping and taxes.

Its getting so expensive it needs a business case. It is going beyond the personal 'thing'.

:-)

analoguey
1-Mar-2014, 01:48
I was reading Ansel 's ' print' and he mentions a very similar approach to building a horizontal enlarger.
What would be the workflow to build your own enlarger? (And using a camera)

Dan Dozer
1-Mar-2014, 08:24
My set up is pretty simple. I built a base/frame with a track that sits on the edge of the counter in the darkroom and projects onto the wall. It opens up as two 90 degree legs when in place and folds up so when I'm not using it, it easily stores away. The camera and cold light head slide back and forth on the track to get the image size to the approximate size needed for the print and then I use the camera adjustements to slide the camera front assembly forward or backward for final focusing. The cold light head is just positioned up against the camera back. I also use the front rise/fall for adjusting the vertical position of the image for cropping. The only thing I need to do with the camera to convert it from using it for exposing the image to using it as the enlarger is to remove the ground glass back. While I don't need to, I found that the clipped corners on it will encroach in the corners of the enlarged image sometimes.

I have some photographs of the whole set up and I'll see if I can find them to post.