This was the first photo magazine I ever bought; the October 1973 Darkroom Issue of Popular Photography. I was 14 years old, shooting with a Kodak Retina IIc rangefinder that my Dad graciously let me borrow. Like most photographers of the day, I yearned to process film and print my own photographs.
I learned to develop film in my friend Mike's basement darkroom, messing up a few rolls of Plus-X Pan while learning the nuances of winding it onto Honeywell Nikor stainless steel reels in complete darkness. Actually, the winding on was the hardest part. Kodak's D-76 developer and good ole Plus-X were forgiving friends of budding darkroom workers.
After the film was developed, washed and dried, we'd make contact prints of the roll on 8x10 sheets of photographic paper using the light of Mike's Beseler enlarger. The contact prints would need to be developed, stopped, fixed and washed just like the film and after that was done, we would decide which images to print full size.
It was great to have a friend with a darkroom, but soon I wanted one of my own. I talked my parents into letting me set one up in the corner of our own basement laundry room. A lot of people, kids and adults, processed their own film and made prints at home in those days. It turns out that a neighbor up the street had an old 1950s era Federal enlarger for sale. He was upgrading to a new Omega B-22 enlarger and the Federal would soon be surplus. $50 of lawn mowing money got me the enlarger and he threw in three trays, tongs, a Kodak safelight and Paterson film developing tank.
Just like kids today spend hours playing video games or goofing around on smart phones, I'd take over the laundry room whenever I could, sealing up the cracks under the door to keep out stray light, mixing up smelly chemicals and standing in awe under the glow of my red safelight as my photographic works of art magically appeared in the developer tray.
I can't believe it's been 44 years!