Fashion photographer Danny turned his unfinished basement into a darkroom – and added a basement window well for several important reasons.
“Film photography isn’t dead,” explains Danny Patterson, a fashion photographer from New Jersey. “It’s still a medium used in high art, and a lot of fashion magazines still love the look of a photograph taken on real 35mm film.”
But Danny, who specializes in photographs taken on real film, admits that the digital revolution has changed a lot of things.
“Everything that used to be commonplace has got more difficult to get hold of now, though,” he admits. “You used to be able to buy film from any drugstore – now you have to order it especially, or go to a specialist store in the city.” Developing, too, has become a chore. “I have to go to a darkroom in Midtown to develop my pictures – and it wasn’t cheap.”
Which is why Danny decided to turn his basement into a specialist darkroom.
“I was developing a few reels in there anyway, and one day I just figured: Do it right.” So Danny found some old photography equipment on eBay – like an enlarger from the 1960s – and decided to go for it.
“My plan was to go beyond just creating a darkroom for myself, and create one other people would pay to use, too.” To that end, Danny’s darkroom project began as a basement finishing project – adding hardwood floors, drywall and ceiling tiles to his previously empty and unfinished basement.
“I just wanted it to look livable,” he explained. “Nobody’s going to rent out a darkroom space if it’s got my washer and dryer in one corner, and a box of Christmas decorations in the other.”
The other important addition Danny invested in was a basement window well and egress window.
“Because it was an old house,” he explains, “the previous owners had never added a means of egress to their basement.” Danny could have probably got away without adding one himself: “But I wanted to do it right.”
Adding a basement window well has several advantages for Danny.
“It’s a great investment for the house,” he explains. “Adding a basement window meets national building code, so it actually adds value to my house that I’ve got the finished basement up to code.”
“It’s also really practical for doing my photography.” A film darkroom requires a lot of chemicals, including bleaches like Potassium ferricyanide, which release cyanide when mixed with water.
“A basement window adds important ventilation and air circulation,” he explains, “which is really important for safety.”
Equally important is having a means of escape from the basement should something happen; like a fire.
“That’s one of the dangers of an old house,” Danny explains. “If it goes up – especially when I’m downstairs, in the dark – I’m in trouble.”
We’ll be watching Danny’s basement darkroom to see how his new business “develops” (did you see what we did there?) In the meantime, it sounds like another example of where a basement window well is a picture perfect solution for safety.