Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Underground

Yesterday’s post reminded me or the basement of the house I grew up in. That house was built in 1861, when Lincoln was President. It was and still is a Federalist style home. The basement was dug by with draft horses and the foundation was made with local field stones. I was four years old when I first walked down the rickety stairs to that dirt floored basement. Before moving into that house, my father put in a cement floor and a new furnace and made it into a usable space.

My father wasn’t a real basement user. Though he had a work bench down there, he had few tools. I probably have more tools in my truck than he had in his total collection. The basement was only used to store an old refrigerator, and a kitchen table set from the 40s. My brother used the space for his projects more than anyone. After he moved out the basement was all mine. I turned it into a darkroom. I had to cover all the windows and seal all spots where light could get in.

Having a vast amount of room I was able to do things that most people with darkrooms could never do, like make a four-foot by eight foot mural. I could turn my enlarger on its side and project images like it was a theater. I once did a series of extreme enlargements where you enlarge a small portion of a photograph to the point where the image is a grainy abstract and can only bees seen when viewed from afar, like pointillism art. I used a telescope to focus the enlarger. These prints would sometimes take several hours of exposure before processing.

I’ve had dark rooms in two other homes that I’ve lived in since then. After moving out here and not having a basement I gave all my darkroom equipment away. I still think of the basement that gave me the appreciation of under-ground rooms. I’d love to have a basement again, though I don’t think I’d ever recreate a darkroom. That was a piece of the past that I couldn’t return to.


Blogger Beth said...

Used to live in an old home where the basement "door" was part of the floor and you had to lift it to get down there. Now that was a "dark room" and one I did not enter eagerly.

6:41 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

I'd love to have a full basement. In Alaska, we had a full finished basement that was big and clean and dry and well lit. It was great. If I had my druthers and the money to spare, I'd have my whole house underground.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Zoe said...

I've often wanted to add a darkroom to our basement. I miss manipulating images to create something completely different from what was captured on film. There is just nothing like watching an image emerge from a blank piece of white photo paper.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Guy said...

Beth, you are pretty tweaky, aren't you? ; )

I have some in-laws that built their home underground in North Dakota. They are warm and toasty all winter long.

Zoe, It is remarkable, but will soon become archaic and perhaps a forgotten art. Sad, but I can't see myself going back to it.

5:12 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

"Tweaky?" Great word. Made me laugh.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Guy said...

There is only a slight difference between fine tuned and high strung.


9:38 AM  

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