Under Red Light – Oleksandr Khytrykov
Under Red Light is manufacturing darkroom equipment in Ukraine. We talk to Oleksandr Khytrykov.
By Christopher Osborne.
Print and film washers from “Under Red Light”
Building darkroom equipment started as a necessity for photographer Ukrainian Oleksandr Khytrykov. Second-hand equipment was scarce and very expensive.
Oleksandr started by manufacturing a film washer for his own use. It was designed to be able to handle 4×5, 5×7 and 8×10 inch film in a single device. He showed the completed device to some fellow Ukrainian photographers. They wanted to buy his film washer, and that led Oleksandr to research worldwide demand.
Oleksandr Khytrykov is the founder of “Under Red Light”.
“I started marketing the film washer on my personal Instagram channel in 2020, and the print washer quickly became very popular. My approach has been to improve on existing designs”.
Next Olexandr developed a print washer is now available in a range of paper sizes. Supported sizes range from 5×7 inches to 20×24 inches. Customers can choose a model with a range of slots. Hypo clear slots are also provided. The 16×20 inch size with 6 slots costs $670 US plus shipping, for example.
The print washer from Under Red Light was so popular, that the existing customer base started asking Oleksandr to design new products. As a result, Under Red Light has diversified and expanded its range to include equipment for washing wet plate collodion plates as well as a sensitising tank. Oleksandr has also designed roll film washers too.
I asked Oleksandr about the manufacturing process. Plexiglass (Perspex if you are in the UK) parts are router cut to order. Welding and 3D printing are also outsourced. “I do not want to order a huge quantity of parts”, Oleksandr explains. “And we don’t have the space or capital for a cutting machine of our own. The business model is to place orders for parts that match the demand. As we receive more orders, we order more parts. This adaptive model enables us to continually improve our devices and means that we do not have wastage if we alter the design”.
I asked Oleksandr where Under Red Light is going. Oleksandr smiles. He says that he has more ideas for new products than hours in the day. Understandably, Oleksandr does not want to over-promise and is keen to manage the release of new products in a way that he can ensure happy customers. “Our main objective is to create competitive designs”, explains Oleksandr. “We want our products to be functional, and to look professional.
As the business is continuing to grow, Oleksandr has started to search for an assistant. He says that it is difficult to find someone locally who as passionate about both analogue photography and business.
Under Red Light assembles products in a 20 square metre space in an industrial area in Boryspil, near Kyiv’s main airport. The Under Red Light store can be found on both eBay and on Etsy, and can be shipped worldwide using services such as UPS and FedEx. So far, Oleksandr has shipped washers to 24 countries outside Ukraine. Payment is through Paypal.
Images © Oleksandr Khytrykov 2023.
You might also be interested in Lukas Birk’s Box Camera project. See https://silvergrainclassics.com/en/2023/02/instant-box-camera/