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Friday, September 25

A Week With David M. - Part Five

Reader, What Next?

by David M.

My 5x4 De Vere took pride of place but, yet again, I had two enlargers.

In those days, I went to quite a few workshops (not the current crop of sure-fire tripod-hole tours, but inspirational immersion in photography) so I packed the Vivitar in the boot as I set off for Derbyshire. Happily, the designers had made it very easy to dismantle.

Someone at the workshop was starting a photographic centre in Cornwall, and they were happy to take it away. Now I could be alone with The One, my True Love among enlargers. Have we lived happily ever after? Would I be writing this if we had?

I used to visit an artwork studio in the days before Quark Xpress and Steve Jobs changed everything. Text was set in strips and glued to boards, ready for a process camera to photograph it and make into a plate. The studio had a proper wet darkroom with proper enlargers, a Durst 5x4” with a colour head and a huge 10x8” floor standing De Vere.

Floor standing 10x8" De Vere - Made in England from girders.

For making slides they had a specially modified pin-registered Nikon F3 that I greatly coveted. From time-to-time, I’d joke about what would happen to all that desirable equipment when they went digital. I should have known better.

One bright afternoon, I got a phone call. “We’ve got your ten-by-eight enlarger on the van. Where should the driver deliver it?” Fortunately, I didn’t use the garage much, so it had to go in there, to wait until the next house move. The very desirable pin-registered F3 evaporated without trace.

Today, I have a (very) small back bedroom with two enlargers (Again! Again!! Do I have a deep subconscious problem?). I had to make a smaller baseboard for the 10x8”, to fit it in.

I have used it, honest I have, but mostly it provides a convenient shelf for all the self-generating miscellanea that congregates in darkrooms. I’m not sure how to get it out again, so this seems to be the end of my enlarger saga.

But a Multigrade head would be nice… They’re solid gold hens’ teeth nowadays, of course.

Postscript: I forgot to mention that somewhere, somehow, I acquired a cute Russian 35mm enlarger that packs up into its own baseboard. It seemed like a good idea at he time and it works, but it’s now taken early retirement in comfortable sheltered housing in the loft.

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Herman Sheephouse said...

Ah, but you should have had a DeVere copy camera/copying device too - you had to stand on a step to access a heavy duty cast iron frame with a clear glass platter.
Artwork was placed on a board below your waist level and the board was height-adjusted by yer usual DeVere wheels - it was lit by heavy duty lighting and you could copy the artwork from exceptionally tiny to massive.
We used to use it for copying Letraset lettering onto tracing paper for projects - total waste of its capabilities of course, but that's what you had in pre-computer days - it's probably cruising the country right now on an old VW Camper chassis . . .

Michael Carberry said...

I acquired/was given a Durst M301/CL35 colorhead. No darkroom or experience with it. Been looking for instructions for awhile. Guess the trial and error you referred too will be brought to bear soon as I have a darkroom. I'm actually recalling some of the experience from decades ago in grade school. I'm sure it will confuse me.

Bruce Robbins said...


I've got PDFs for the Durst M300 and C35 which might help you make sense of things. If you ping me an email I'll send them to you.

Richard Warom said...

Well I thoroughly enjoyed that series. Well done Bruce for putting it in.

Herman Sheephouse said...

Hi David - strangely your reply to me hasn't appeared yet, so I'll quote it:

"We used a Grant projector instead. A big box with a pram-like hood, a glass top and a moving platform underneath. Gigantic bellows with a lens at the bottom, that could be racked up and down with the two wobbly chrome handles on the front. We traced from the Letraset catalogue, not the Letraset itself. Monstrous hot Photoflood lamps that made the bellows smell of burning. There was a light-proof lid so you could make photographic copies on specially thin high contrast (Agfa?) paper that was then fed through a small processor. The prints lasted as long as they needed to, which wan't long. "

Our DeVere at College sounds eerily like your Grant, in fact maybe ours was a Grant, but I do seem to remember DeVere . . and like you we used the catalogue. I don't think people realise how much physical effort went into Graphics back then - if you had large posters to do for rough-ups, it was Letraset copying all the way, or block type using proper presses - very time consuming indeed!
Maybe both the Grant and DeVere are now cruising the world on old VW Camper chassis . . .