The Magic School Bus: School Bus Turned Traveling Darkroom

The Photo Palace! A cross-country traveling bus with a purpose to educate and inform people on the joys of film photography. Photo courtesy of

School buses have long since symbolized the act of learning and education. What better a symbol than the school bus to get across an educational idea? The Photo Palace, a cross country traveling bus turned darkroom, has became a stationary, not so stationary, vehicle for the education of film photography.

The official website of The Photo Palace states that, “Its aim is propagation of knowledge related to historic photographic techniques through cross-country art exhibits, lectures and demonstrations. The Photo Palace Bus is a project by Anton Orlov built with assistance by Ryan Kalem. Currently Anton Orlov and The Photo Palace Bus are traveling across Continental USA on their maiden voyage creating art and exploring Americana.”

What a great idea! I feel that people so rarely have access to film education if you are not an art major or photography major. The best most of us can do is to figure it out on our own. Although I am a mass communication major with a journalism/photo-journalism concentration, I am not able to take the film photography classes at my school due to the seating availability being made to art majors first, which is understandable. I’ve tried the past four semesters or so to get into a film class and even with the art department’s consent they have filled up before I was able to register. I think next semester I may actually get into an Alternative Processes class, so fingers crossed it doesn’t fill up!

Anyways, back to the bus. Basically, The Photo Palace is driving across the country to educate people on the joys and art of pre-digital photography. Their mission statement is as follows:

1) Provide lectures and demonstrations at various events and locations  to keep the public informed about the art of film photography and it’s traditions
2) Offer workshops on gelatin silver printing and alternative photo processes in order to pass on the skill sets that have been refined over the previous generations to new audiences of budding artists
3) Hold impromptu and planned photographic showings to expose more people to real physical prints and to re-spark interest in analog photography
All very cool and equally as enlightening. I know you are wondering, “What does a dark room bus look like? Are there seats?” No, no seats. This bus rides in style.

Really neat, right? Who would have though all of this could fit on a school bus? Great construction, guys 🙂

Anton Orlov, mastermind behind the bus, says on his site that, “I believe that film is not dead – in fact I believe that the onslaught of digital media overload will eventually drive the public to appreciate the art of traditional manual photography for the magical and unique phenomenon it truly is. With time, it is my hope, more people will come to appreciate the amount of labor and thought that goes into each hand-made print.  The Photo Palace Bus aims to make that time come sooner.”

Hopefully this holds true! I feel the same way. I think that film will not die but instead take on a different form of meaning to the art community. It will never be as widely used as digital is nowadays, modern America as a whole just does not have the patience for film photography anymore. We crave instant convenience. Even my 9-year-old brother and sister always ask to see the photo immediately after I take a picture of them and when I say they have to wait they have a hard time understanding why. Film is not disappearing, the markets are just shifting. There will always be people out there who want something special, something personalized and something one of a kind and when it comes to this concept, digital cannot beat film.

Want to follow the adventures of The Photo Palace? Follow their blog!

Would YOU go on the bus if it came to your neighborhood?

9 thoughts on “The Magic School Bus: School Bus Turned Traveling Darkroom

  1. That is a really cool idea. I think you really hit the nail on the head with a schoolbus symbolizing education. What better place to have a educational, traveling darkroom. I really love the fact that the bus itself is “retro”. Do you know if schools can request the bus to visit for an educational activity? I’d be really interested in that. It could possibly give school children of young ages a look into the art of potography/film and maybe find a passion in some of them.

  2. Yes! People can request a bus visit, the info is located on their website. I think it would be awesome, especially to educate younger children on the art of film photography.

    It’s really weird to be that I have to say “film photography” now. Notice no one says “digital photography” when referring to every day photos O_O

  3. Absolutely the coolest thing I’ve heard of. Also appropriately named! Magic… think of a traveling darkroom! I think besides educating young children it will educate many generations… bring on the Magic School Bus! 🙂 Another wonderful article!

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