Leigh W Hawk and his Durst A-900

One of the great pleasures of setting up The Fox Darkroom has been discovering old and often forgotten pieces of equipment and breathing life back into them. Literally every piece of gear in the space has had a past life. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to learn a little about their previous owners.

Meet the Durst A-900. Despite being a seriously large (and heavy) unit I felt an instant connection with this old giant and its beaming expression I see in its dials. I got the lead for this pick from friend Bruce who put me in touch with a guy by the name of Graham. We spoke briefly on the phone and arranged to meet at his parents’ home in Ashwood.

Grahams father (who sadly passed away some years ago) was a noted landscape photographer in the 1960’s by the name of Leigh W Hawk. In fact the Melbourne Camera Club still have an annual award in honor of him. It’s pretty special for somebody to invite you into their childhood home and allow you to dig through family’s possessions.

Graham took me out to the old darkroom at the back of the property where he and his father spent countless hours perfecting images and mastering the process. Although the darkroom had clearly been taken over by mice and spiders (and most likely not seen any human interaction for decades) I was still able to get a real sense of the type of photographer Leigh W Hawk must have been – the old radio mounted on the shelf, dusty chemistry bottles carefully lined up along the sink, a beautiful old planted K lamp attached to the table and the stack of meticulously handwritten notes outlining exposure times and chemical compounds he had experimented with.

Amongst all the rubble there was some brilliant treasures to be had and Graham was happy to see the equipment go to a good home where people may have the chance to enjoy them as he and his father had previously. I feel pretty privileged to have this enlarger and like to imagine the expression on its ‘face’ reflects all the stories it holds.