Hiroshi Watanabe’s darkroom 2011 copyright Douglas Stockdale
Earlier this week I had an opportunity to meet up with Hiroshi Watanabe (books: Findings and Love Point) at his studio and during the tour, I found myself rather taken by his darkroom. What a wonderful and ideal place to work. A very classic arrangement of wet side versus dry side, enlarger set up across from the tray processing. Yikes, this darkroom left me green with envy.
I think back to my first tiny bathroom that entailed at least an hour plus to drag all of the enlarger and processing equipment in to set up. Even so, I could only process the prints to the first stop bath, hold and wait until I could replace the developer trays with the additional trays and chemicals to complete the archival developing and selenium toning. Then at least another hour of break down so we could use the bathroom the following morning (after about 5 hours sleep).
When we finally moved into a house, then I outfitted the spare bedroom/den into the make-shift darkroom. By that time I had the Bessler motorized 4×5 condenser enlarger that I could leave in place, as moving that turkey around was no joy. Regardless, I had to wait until our kids were off to bed before I could set up the room for printing. I least now I could set up all of the trays for continuous processing, although arranging the necessary 16 x 20″ trays was still a little daunting. Hiroshi’s darkroom is about the size of two of our small bedrooms from that house combined.
I can only speculate as to what I would be photographing today if I had a darkroom like Hiroshi’s at my immediate disposable. I would like to think that I would be captivated by similar projects. I know that my investigations of digital capture and printing was a direct result of not having a working darkroom. Likewise, I now regret selling the Bessler 4×5 as I had very good intentions of acquiring a Bessler 23C-XL, but that did not come to pass, as neither did the purchase of a 8×10″ camera system. oh well, water over the dam and need to keep moving on.
Hiroshi had also mentioned that this was his place for contemplation and I think I can understand why.