Public Darkroom Comes to the City

I’ve been waiting for this post for ages. You guys really have no idea how excited I am to finally talk about it. A friend of mine mentioned that there was going to be a public darkroom at the art space known as Brick Haus. After emailing them multiple times and inquiring about it on their website, I received no responses, so I thought that it may have just been a rumor.

BUT IT’S REAL! The Baltimore Sun published an article yesterday all about it. Not only is there one darkroom opening up at Brick Haus, but there is also another opening in artist run gallery called Current Space. Yay!

Photo 243

All ready to go! Kodak Duoflex II. No more worries about places that won’t process “weird” sized film.

This means a lot to our communities, both the film community and the artist community as a whole. Before this idea came about, NYC was the only place I knew of that had rent able public darkrooms, some going up to $50 per hour of use. Crazy talk right there. So much art these days is done via computer programs like Photoshop, Garage Band, Adobe products, etc that people forget how to make art without the aid of technology. Art isn’t just a hobby, but very therapeutic if I do say so myself. I have not been in a darkroom since high school but I remember the long hours spent in there. The solitude of the dark, the patience while processing, the music in my ears as I waited for my roll to finish up. The feeling you get when your print comes out with no dust or particles. Even the noise of squeegeeing off my negatives was a part of the relaxation.

I think the bigger impact of these darkrooms opening up will teach artists to slow down. Take a breath. There is no need for immediacy in art, which is sadly what our society has taught us. People are so determined to get instant results that we often overlook the process that makes things beautiful. A digital print can be beautiful yes, but a print made in a darkroom is a one of a kind labor of love that cannot be replicated exactly the same way.

Most of the equipment needed for developing black and white has been donated to the spaces. Hopefully this new emergence brings old photographers out of the woodwork and curious younger people out to experiment with film. This year film is anything but dead and Baltimore will have the spaces to prove it.


10 thoughts on “Public Darkroom Comes to the City

  1. I often read your blog. This concept is wonderful and maybe some of the venerable old film manufacturers will rethink their corporate decision to stop manufacturing some films. I would love to see film return because no matter how sophisticated digital imaging becomes, I believe the medium of film will always have qualities that can’t be duplicated digitally.

    • I’m glad to hear that, thanks for reading πŸ™‚

      Also, I was thinking along the same lines. Whenever Service Photo or Tech Lab or any of those places get in Kodak Portra 400 I try to go and buy it all at once since it’s so hard to come by in person when I actually need it. I agree with you, when I look at my film work compared to my digital work film definitely has not only a certain look to it but a certain feel as well.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. As someone who works in a gang darkroom in NYC I am so very heartened to hear about this. I have learned so much from the community that grows up around a group darkroom, and the school that contains the darkroom has made for a real creative and informed culture. I tend to take it for granted but whenever I travel I see how special it is. That there are people willing to put together wetlabs like this is so encouraging to me, because they are the pins that bind our community together. Especially in a world where everything including community has become increasingly “virtual”, to be able to get together face to face, to see each others workflow and to learn and teach in a direct hands on way is essential to the very art that we are dedicated to survive.

    • Agree! I’m excited and I hope that this is something that grows and catches on. Film love activate! πŸ™‚ it’s a beautiful thing to learn from other artists and to find inspiration in the workflow and art of others. I feel like it is the most human of all traits that we posess.

  3. In Los Angeles we have a couple of public darkrooms, but still for a city this size, it doesn’t seem like enough. They have odd hours and are kind of expensive too! Always cool to see things like this happening and it’s encouraging. I don’t think a lot of digital artists are getting off easier with photoshop. The folks I know who are putting out amazing photoshop and digital work spend, hours, days and longer working on single images as well.

    • Yes, they are expensive. I looked some up out of curiosity. I really hope the Baltimore ones aren’t too pricey! Agree with you about digital artists, those that spend countless hours and sleepless nights editing and retouching are definitely commendable! I also shoot digital so I can relate. I feel like often though, those who do not take the time to post process as specifically or meticulously blindly shoot with digital. I suppose you could also do that with film too, the only difference is that film costs more money πŸ˜‰

  4. I’m not sure film costs more money – with the average dslr costing around $1600 to $2500 for a decent body, plus around $400 – $2000 for each lens, photoshop CS6, and a computer…it seems pretty pricey all by itself.

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