Meet Jill Enfield, Her Portable Darkroom, and Photographic Alternative Processes

My father was indirectly responsible for my introduction to non-traditional photo techniques around 35 years ago. When I told him of my intentions to become a professional photographer, he convinced me that one practical option would be to earn a certificate in medical photography. However, taking pictures of impaled eyes, severed heads and bloody surgical procedures was of less interest to me than shooting with infrared film.

Editor's Note: This is a guest blog post by Jill Enfield.

Darkroom: Introduction

In these digital times, most photographers have migrated away from the traditional wet darkroom process, in favor of the DSLR and the inkjet printer. However, if you have ever watched a silver-gelatin print developing in a darkroom tray, you will probably never forget the feeling of watching an image bloom on a blank piece of paper right before your eyes.

Darkroom: Safelights

Although black-and-white papers are vulnerable to daylight until "fixed," a certain amount of "safe" light is allowed in the darkroom. It is this amber, red or green light (contingent on the sensitivity of the particular enlarging paper you’re using) that allows us to find our way around while we prepare to print. 


Darkroom: Ventilation

Proper ventilation is essential in a darkroom. Chemicals, especially fixer (hypo) and acetic acid (stop bath), give off strong fumes that can be disturbing, can aggravate respiratory ailments and are extremely unhealthy in a non-ventilated space. 


Darkroom: Negatives and Transparencies

It is important to mention at this point that print quality is more a factor of the negative than it is of the equipment used to print. Remember what Ansel Adams said: “The negative is the score. The print is the performance.” That says it all. It is very difficult to get a satisfactory print from a bad negative.


Darkroom: Contact Printers

A contact printer (or proofer) is a kind of easel that enables you to make a sheet of thumbnail prints from a roll of film that has been cut into strips, usually containing six images per strip for 35mm film and three or four images per strip for medium-format negatives.


Darkroom: Black and White Enlarging Papers

Though the choices are fewer than they were just a few years back, there are still a number of black and white enlarging papers available to satisfy the printing needs of both amateurs and hypo-stained chemical darkroom diehards.


Darkroom: Color Enlarging Paper

Like their black-and-white counterparts, the number of color enlarging papers available in sheet and roll form is limited compared to the number of offerings that were available before the advent of digital inkjet printers.


Darkroom: Paper Safes

A paper safe can save time, effort and the cost and aggravation of having to replace a box of fogged photo printing paper. Imagine going into the darkroom to make ONE print and having to open a brand new box of printing paper. Just as you open it, someone comes in to your darkroom and turns on the room light!


Darkroom: Enlargers

As an engine is the heart of a car, an enlarger is the heart of a darkroom. It is the instrument through which negatives are brought to life. Along with a good lens, it is the enlarger around which the rest of the darkroom is built.



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