Developer chemistry converts the latent image into a visible photograph. And while most of us have likely relied upon pre-made concoctions in the darkroom, there are accessible alternatives to store-bought developer solutions too. If you are running low on developer, or you want to embrace a more hands-on approach to black and white printing in the darkroom, at-home materials can be used as an interesting alternative to pre-made dev. For my experimental chemigram work, I've been using simple bath of basil, vitamin C and borax.
10g dried and crushed basil leaves
8 x 500mg vitamin C tablets
15g borax crystals (available online, in some supermarkets or in health and beauty product stores).
Cheesecloth or a sieve
200ml room temperature tap water
200ml boiling hot tap water
A glass jar, pestle or spoon (for crushing the vitamin C)
2 measuring jugs
A tub for the developer mix
Tip 10g of dried and crushed basil leaves into a measuring jug. Add 200ml of boiling hot tap water to the basil and stir. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the basil steeps, break 8 x 500mg vitamin C tablets in half and place them in the second measuring jug.
Crush the vitamin C tablets into a fine powder.
Put protective gloves on and add 15g of borax crystals and 200ml of room temperature tap water to the vitamin C powder and stir well.
When the basil has steeped for 15 minutes, drain the liquid into the mixture of vitamin C and borax, using cheesecloth or a sieve to strain off the basil leaves.
Stir the mixture and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Pour the combined solution into a tray, ready for use.
Keep in mind that exposed prints bathed in the homemade solution can take longer to develop than if the print was bathed in store-bought solution.
Borax can be an irritant, so wearing protective gloves and avoiding inhalation is recommended.