A photographer’s darkroom. A tail of a crazy loop into crazy rules in Italy
TheDarkroom is a brand originated from an idea by Michele Pero, photographer and photoreporter that turned into real a dream: to share a traditional film darkroom with other people, students of photography classes or professionals.
The first darkroom school was established in Florence, Italy. It was a 65 square meters lab equipped with two darkrooms. Intended for Michele’s personal work, it soon turned as a school where Michele was teaching photography. The space was soon extended to host guest photography courses from many diverse backgrounds, such as American colleges, international study abroad programs, local seminars and photo classes, clubs and amateur photographers seminars and workshops.
As the interest in the courses of Michele Pero increased, TheDarkroom turned into a company running photography school, with its own formal photography programs and classes, premises and facilities.
The first original darkroom project was consisting of two darkrooms, equipped with the best enlargers photographers could dream working with. Michele wanted to make a darkroom of a superior level, not simply a student darkroom with toy-enlargers. So all enlargers were professional models made by Durst and IFF, representing the top of the Italian engineering of the sector. They were including Durst A600, Durst D659, Durst DA900, Durst Laborator 138, IFF Duogon, IFF Duogon Superdichroic, IFF Duogon Colormix.
All models were well known by professional printers and professional photographers of that time. Darkroom A was counting seven enlargers, all equipped for printing black and white photography; darkroom B was equipped with four enlargers for printing color films and it was including a Thermaphot ACP 505 automatic printer for RA4, black and white and any other photographic process for bulk paper automatic processing.
In the film development lab any tool was available for developing any kind of film, both manually with Paterson tanks and automatically with Jobo CPP film processor. We were doing b&w, C41, E6 and also Cibachrome by Ilford.
A 24 hours round the clock working space
The two darkrooms became soon overwhelmed of people, students and photographers which liked the classic way of making photos and the famous ‘darkroom life‘, often spending hours overnight on the fine art print that had to turn out perfect for the exhibition. Yes, TheDarkroom was giving the key to all our participants. They could share a working space 24 hours per day, all week long, all year round, no stop. TheDarkroom was giving so much, indeed.
In order to face the growing demand for darkroom facilities, we had to expand our premises three times, meeting larger and larger darkroom spaces with every upgrade, and raising every time the number of enlargers. The last TheDarkroom was counting 3 darkrooms with 36 enlargers, updated to the latest models made by Durst, the amazing Durst Laborator 900, also known as L900, twin lens automatic focus enlargers for to print up to 6×9 cm film format.
All darkrooms were able to print both black and white and color films. Some models were equipped with Durst CLS 450 color head, some with Durst CLS 500, some other with Durst VSL Multigrade head. TheDarkroom was offering indeed condenser enlargers also, for who wanted to print harsher in the most classic and traditional black and white way, the ‘grainy way‘. Our three big Durst L138 with condensers and Durst CLS 301 color head were completing the sets, allowing our photographers to print 4×5 and 5×7 inches sheet films also.
Each darkroom was equipped with large plastic wet & dry tables for doing any chemical process at one’s choice, from tray development to hand emulsifying or toning of prints.
But the rules for environment protection were getting tougher…
Part 2 of the present article is due to continue in the next week issue. Thank you for your kind attention.