Ansel Adams was nothing short of a magician in the darkroom. While there’s no doubt he spent countless hours composing, capturing, and developing his negatives, it was the time he spent printing those negatives that brought his work to life.
Today, we get a glimpse inside one of Adams’ custom-made darkroom thanks to Marc Silber of Advancing Your Photography. With Adams’ son, Michael, acting as the tour guide, Silber gives us an inside look at the specialized darkroom that the elder Adams used to craft his magnificent prints.
As is to be expected from an artist as meticulous and mathematical as Adams, his darkroom was anything but standard. Adams’ biggest enlarger, which he used to create his 11- by 14-inch and 16- by 20-inch prints, was made by hand to fit his needs. It featured a specialized lighting setup, as well as a dedicated set of rails that could move both the enlarger, as well as the wall that held the photo paper.
One of the more interesting components of the video is that despite Adams’ DIY enlarger and meticulous methods, he wasn’t afraid to use basic tools to get the job done. The tools Adams used to dodge and burn his prints were made up of nothing more than pieces of cardboard attached to a wooden dowel. And to dry his test prints quickly, he would use the microwave in his kitchen.
Also shown throughout the tour are never-before-seen clips of Ansel at work in his darkroom. It’s a wonderful glimpse into the work and life of a man who changed photography forever.