The photo darkroom equipment sat for years in a dark corner of my garage covered in dust, cobwebs, and brushfire ashes. Originally, it had been located at the TWS offices where I had first set it up in 1986. Man, if enlargers and trays could talk! To think of all of those great images that had come out of that small room over the years! That darkroom had pumped out some of the most famous skate photos of the most famous skaters, shot by the most famous photographers and printed by some of the most talented darkroom printers. That 5’ X 12’ room, with the stinky air and chemical-stained floors, was a key part of the magazine back in the “film days”—before computers and the digital invasion. A few years after I had left TWS, a friend there called me and let me know that they were closing the darkroom and that they were going to give its innards away to a thrift store. I couldn’t let that happen. I took the gear and it sat for years in my garage with no home for it. The great thing about darkrooms is that all you need is a dark room and a water source; an extra bathroom fits the bill perfectly. I am a
member of “TAO”—The Artist Odyssey studio—and an unused bathroom was available, so a friend and I installed a small temporary darkroom in its already stinky confines. In today’s “Instant-Gratification-I-Want-It-Now-On-Screen” world, shooting film and “making” photographic prints is a slow, tedious, unnecessary process not many want to pursue. We have computers to do that. Let’s speed it up, Ansel! Some practitioners crave it: they love rolling up their sleeves, turning on some tunes, and creating images from negatives under the red Safe Lite glow. There is a craft to it. It’s meditative; time slows down in the dark and the final product has an added artistic value to it because time and skill are put into it. Enough of this “Zen of Darkroom Nerdiness.” Recently I re-printed a negative that I shot of Tod Swank back in 1987 that I hadn’t actually printed in the darkroom in over 25 years. It took me about eight tries to get a decent print, but battling a negative now and then is all part of the process and one feels a sense of victory when it is finished—kind of like making a skate trick.
Text and Photography: Grant Brittain