Today we share a story from our friend, photographer Chuck Davis.
I was given my darkroom sink by my friend, fine art photographer Brad Cole when he moved from his old Seaside, CA location. I was helping him move at the time and had donated my truck and labor to help him re-locate over to Carmel Valley. The sink was pretty beaten up and had been stored outside his place as he had switched to stainless steel sinks. He said it was probably headed to the dump if I didn’t want it.
The sink was sitting out in the back of his studio, with strips of dried old fiberglass hanging off it, as it had obviously been patched and repaired many times in the past, the drain hardware was rusted and corroded . . . it looked pretty ugly, but I needed something to get me going in my newly relocated darkroom, anyway the sink was the perfect size for my new darkroom, so I hauled it home in my truck and went to work on it. A lot of sanding and scraping off of the old fiberglass strips (it took me days working intermittently to get down to the wood, and strip off all the old paint and fiberglass patches) and lo and behold as I began to sand away I realized this sink was made of real vintage 2″x8″ redwood.
I ended up re-sealing a few seams with Bondo, then gave it three coats of medium gray marine deck paint. It came out looking great in both form and function . . . and has never leaked a drop. I then built some legs for it out of 4×4’s and built the height custom to my own height and the height I find most comfortable to lean on occasionally when rocking prints in the trays for long printing sessions. Brad had given me the gift of this old sink. As it turns out years previous, he had been given that same sink by Dick Garrod when Dick switched to a stainless steel sink in his darkroom.
Some weeks later after I had restored the sink, I saw Dick Garrod at the Monterey Sports Center where we both work out regularly and I told him that I had just acquired his old wooden darkroom sink and I was honored to have a sink that was used by him and my friend Brad. Then Dick said to me, “Well you know where I got that sink, don’t you?” and I said “No, I have no idea”. Dick then told me that he had in turn been given that sink years ago by his long-time friend, Brett Weston who had printed with this sink for some time, then gave it to Dick when Brett switched to a different sink. I was amazed what an interesting history and how cool is it that darkroom equipment like this can move all around the Monterey Peninsula and render utility like this over the years.
It seems used darkroom gear in general tends to get used and used for years and year . . . and re-purposed by others, unlike electronic gear that gets a few years old and becomes more or less unwanted and ends up in the e-cycle bin somewhere. I am all for recycling . . . but “repurposing” is even better.
As I remember, Dick told me that one of Brett’s brothers had built that sink many years ago (I think he said it was Neil Weston . . . but could have been older brother Chandler who had evidently built several of these type sinks) and he really did a nice job, the sides were solid redwood planks and the bottom was plywood held into place very precisely via a routered groove in the redwood. So this really was built by a very skilled carpenter not a “do-it-yourselfer.” And there you have it. Chuck Davis
Thank you Chuck.
From the Tidal Flats site.
Chuck Davis has worked as a specialist in marine and underwater photography and cinematography. His motion picture filming credits include work on several IMAX films, including Ring of Fire (underwater lava scenes), Whales, The Greatest Places, Amazing Journeys, Search for the Great Sharks, and two Academy Award-nominated IMAX films, Alaska: Spirit of the Wild and The Living Sea (underwater/marine scenes of Monterey Bay). Davis’s cinematography experience has also included numerous expeditions worldwide with the Cousteau filming teams working with the late Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his son Jean-Michel during production of the Rediscovery of the World TV series. He has also worked on feature films such as Warner Brothers’ SPHERE and documentary projects for the Discovery/Learning Channel, BBC, PBS, CBS, ABC, A&E, NBC/Universal and National Geographic Channel. Recent cinematography projects include work as the director of photography for Jean-Michel Cousteau’s “Ocean Adventures” PBS TV series, the Smithsonian’s Who We Are (a special dome-theater film for the National Museum for the American Indian, in Washington, D.C.), and the avant-garde production, Crystal Palace, filmed in Papua New Guinea for director, Mathias Poledna.
Chuck’s images have appeared nationally and internationally in magazines such as B+W, ORION, LIFE, National Geographic, Audubon, Nature’s Best, Defenders, National Wildlife, Outside, Scientific American, Terre Sauvage, BBC Wildlife, Italy’s FOCUS/Extra, Ocean Realm and numerous Cousteau publications. His fine art black and white and color work has been represented in special exhibitions by the Ansel Adams Gallery, the Christopher Bell Collection Gallery, the OCEANS Gallery in Los Angeles and in multi-photographer exhibits at the National Geographic Society/Explorer’s Hall in Washington, D.C., Nikon House/New York, The Center for Photographic Art, Brooks Institute and the San Francisco International Airport. Davis’s work is included in numerous private and corporate collections; he is also the author/photographer of California Reefs/Chronicle Books.
Davis earned degrees in fisheries biology from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst and in filmmaking from the Brooks Institute of Photography. The main thrust in Davis’ personal work is helping to stimulate marine environmental awareness and conservation via the use of marine and underwater images.
To read more about Chuck Davis please visit his page at Chuck Davis.
Thank you Chuck.
“What a wonderful story – rich in history and connections! When my Mom (Edna Bullock) unexpectedly took up photography a year after Dad died, she had access to his small darkroom behind their one-car garage, along with various supplies and equipment. Although she eventually updated the space and made it her own, she continued to feel his presence there. And whenever she worked in the darkroom, she always wore one of the shirts she had made him and one of his belts.” Barbara Bullock Wilson
“What a fab post – my darkroom gear does not have such an illustrious background – but hey, it does have an enormous amount of suggestions and tips (when I came to build it) from various friends and some of the best darkroom printers in the UK…
So, this post really made me think how fortunate I was when it came to building mine…many thanks. ” Mark Burley
12 thoughts on “The Darkroom Sink”
What a fab little post – my darkroom gear does not have such an illustrious background – but hey, it does have an enormous amount of suggestions and tips (when I came to build it) from various friends and some of the best darkroom printers in the UK…
So, this post really made me think how fortunate I was when it came to building mine…
Many thanks – Mark Burley
Thank you, Mark we are glad you enjoyed it.
What a wonderful story – rich in history and connections! When my Mom (Edna Bullock) unexpectedly took up photography a year after Dad died, she had access to his small darkroom behind their one-car garage, along with various supplies and equipment. Although she eventually updated the space and made it her own, she continued to feel his presence there. And whenever she worked in the darkroom, she always wore one of the shirts she had made him and one of his belts.
Hi Chuck great story, great portrait !!
Thank you Barbara, great story about another wonderful photographers darkroom. Would have loved to have seen it.
Wonderful story & loved hearing the story of the history of the sink! Thanks sharing.