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Henk Mantel: "A laboratory table for friends of black and white photography"

February 21, 2013

After a couple of tries at making an emulsion it is high time, at least for me, to think about making a small step forward. But thinking about what has happened to me: I've got to warn anybody reading this of the highly seductive and addictive character of this whole business of emulsion fabrication. The risk of psychological dependency shouldn't be underestimated. I'm hooked.

Speaking of making a little step forward, I mean the improvement of my darkroom. Much is said here on The Light Farm about the necessity of installing decent ventilation in a darkroom. I did install a small ventilator, a bathroom one to mount inside three inch tubing I bought years ago. A wire mesh over the end of the tubing outside, to prevent rodents entering, reduces the airflow dramatically, making it ineffective. Furthermore, the flexible tubing isn't lightproof on a bright day. That has to be dismantled. I am on the lookout for a high capacity ventilator. Because I hate the noise these things make I'll make a hole in the wall for the tubing and hope for the best.

That's about health. Now the works. Why is it that when I am looking on the internet and see small ads for equipment I seem to have a tendency to buy things nobody wants? All right, the owner who puts it on sale doesn't want it anymore, that's understandable, but I am the only one who wants to buy? That's ok from an economical point of view but it makes me a little pensive. Is this goal of emulsion making I am striving at, such a dwindling exercise, such a niche activity? I donít think so. Prices of silver nitrate are rising so the demand stemming from emulsion makers can be nothing else but tremendous.

In my darkroom in the basement I needed a sink. Because I don't want to spend a lot of money by asking the local plumber (and admiring his skills) I have to do it myself. So I looked for a kitchen sink, expensive and really too small. The next idea, a kind of tub masons use, usable, but a lot of work making a kind of hefty support. Then I found an offer on ebay of someone and I quote: "a laboratory table for friends of black and white photography". The auction date was still a couple of days away and no bidders yet. So I entered one Euro fifty. A day later someone wanted to have it for two Euros. I kept quiet for a few days and then entered my bid of a hundred Euros. I got the table for two Euros fifty. Nobody else had made an offer. The same did happen to me when buying darkroom lighting, with print frames too. On a Hungarian market I bought a Russian Fed 2 camera for ten Euros, perfect condition, the lens performs as good as my Olympus lenses. No haggling. No, the camera was lying there on this rainy day, looking at me. Thatís why I am pondering about our activities. But also to anyone reading this Iíd like to say:

Forget about your wallet when building whatever kind of darkroom — it will cost you next to nothing.

Tomorrow I have to drive 230 kilometers one way, to collect the table. It's a red five by two feet long polyester sink on beechwood legs. The seller mailed me to ask if he should take apart the thing because of its size; that really is embarrassing, for these two Euros fifty.

Tomorrow I am going to collect the table. I'd better buy him a bottle of our local gin, too.

But tonight I'll be at it again. I made myself a couple of digital negatives on overhead projector sheets printed with a laser printer. It is cheating a bit but I am concentrating on the printing.

Here is the negative I am going to use.

It's the trade mark of the Ernemann Camera Factory of Dresden. The factory building still exists and above the entrance is this mosaic of The Light Goddess made in 1903 by Hans Unger. I use the mark on the camera box. If anything is fitting to The Light Farm this is it.

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