In a recent interview with Marc Silber of Advancing Your Photography, Ansel Adams’ son Michael gives a tour of his father’s darkroom.
The basics are all there, but by and large, they were designed by Adams for the space he was in. Sure, the dodge-and-burn stick is literally a stick with some cardboard taped to it, but the enlarger and wall mount are both on a custom-built track, and can be moved independently toward or away from each other depending on Adams’ needs. The light source in the enlarger is actually 30 individual light sources, each with its own switch for the utmost control over a negative’s illumination.
My favorite part? When Michael details how his father tested exposures with a new image. It’s pretty standard up until the end, when he says that Adams would routinely microwave the test print – it would dry faster that way, and the best way to ascertain the correct exposure is with a dry print. The more you know!
It’s a fascinating look back into the world of film and physical prints, and a reminder that creativity and control don’t necessarily require the fanciest equipment money can buy.