I have always wanted to start a community darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Christopher Walrath, Jun 27, 2012.

  1. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I preface this thread by stating that I have no money with which to start such a project. This is just something I have wanted to do for the last seven or eight years.

    Man, I would love to start a public darkroom. Set up four rooms. Three for smaller formats and one for LF. Thinking, like, three stalls 12' x 12' with two hallways running down each side for two entrances (exits) and the LF room at the back, 12' x 20'. The front would have a 12' x 16' area, a small counter. Couple of chairs. Coffee pot. Couple of prints hanging.

    I had the place in mind and everytime I drove by it for over six years I would think, "There is Broadkill Darkroom." Lots of ambition, no fundage so, oh well. And now it is a dentistry office. And dentists scare the hell right outta me.

    I digress.

    There are no community darkrooms that I am aware of on the Delmarva Peninsula unless there are some at a couple of colleges/ universities. And I am sure there are enough photographers that a darkroom could be justified. I know it would not be a money maker. It would just be a place for the fixer huffers to congregate and ooh and aah. I would love to have a place to gather with others in this way. Be able to show others some different tricks. And learn some in return.

    Ah, just blowing off some steam. Feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Shoot for some grant money!
     
  3. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    I know three guys named Grant and they owe me.

    Keep it light.
    ChrisW
     
  4. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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    Bristol in UK have set up a new(ish) community darkroom and there is one in Esperance in Western Australia - Both were equipped by donation from people wanting space - The Esperance darkroom was donated an embarrassing amount of gear

    If you can find the darkroom space and people to help run it then it will equip itself, unless your local enlargers have all gone to the tip, which I pray has not happened
     
  5. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Chris,

    I think it helps to start with the community rather than the darkroom. These folks have been quite successful but they had a core group dedicated to the process. Two previous incarnations failed because one person tried to do it all. The new group has been able to get their message out on bulletin boards and the like and have added to the number of people using the darkroom.

    Send them a note. They might have some good suggestions.

    Neal Wydra
     
  6. Discoman

    Discoman Member

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    I guess you could try being in a city with lots of film photographers who would chip in for the initial fees. Or you could try using kick starter to fund it...
    Dunno how effective kick starter would be, but it may very well help.
     
  7. inlarry

    inlarry Member

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    I've considered the same, but unfortunately found there'd be little interest let alone for-pay. I've found most people who want one, have one themselves or are in school.

    However, I've at times rented out my own personal darkroom to students.
     
  8. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    why not start with darkroom nights in your or your friends darkroom(s)?
     
  9. inlarry

    inlarry Member

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    That'd definitely be where I'd start. Open up on weekends, or whenever really. Advertise times somewhere or just do it by appointment. Charge a small fee for use, plus a fee for chemical's/supplies if they don't bring their own. Even open yourself up for instruction if you get a newb wanting to explore. If you get enough interest, then consider getting a different space. Otherwise, you're helping out other people to get into the darkroom which alone is a noble cause.

     
  10. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    All good ideas. But I am in a small town and have no local film shooting acquaintances. After all this time you'd think I'd find someone. Apparently I smell or something.

    Keep it light.
    ChrisW
     
  11. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    Here is an idea...Start a local group meeting monthly to discuss the full range of photography. Depending on the group, membership could give presentations addressing topics of group interest. Consider the group an analog support group. Organize photo contests. Charge a small entry fee and provide reasonable prize money. Use the participation list to recruit membership to your analog support group. As the group matures look for an art organization willing to donate space and utilities for a community darkroom. Check on-line local sales and ask the seller to make an equipment donation for the good of photography. Your group will need to provide user fees to cover costs and you will need to make arrangements for a DR overseeer.
     
  12. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    There's a great community darkroom out in Bushwick in NYC, but it's an easier area due to the huge number of art students and young creatives that live out there now. Maybe give them a call and ask them for pointers?

    Just google "Bushwick Community Darkroom"
     
  13. graywolf

    graywolf Member

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    Right there is the nub of the problem. What you are actually asking for is a darkroom for your own use. If there were a half dozen of you, you would have figured out how you could do it already.

    I started a camera club here in my town, and while there was some interest, we maxed out at about 20 members, there was no one else interested in film or old cameras, and no one who was interested in running it when I became too ill to do it all myself. So it was dissolved after 18 months.

    It actually is not too hard to set up a club or association, nor is it hard to generate publicity. Money is a bit harder but you would be surprised at the availably of money for such efforts. What is hard is to get 3-6 people who will put in the effort to make such an organization work.

    If you are the only one in town doing film, what makes you think there is any other way of getting access to a darkroom other than setting up your own? That is what I had to do.
     
  14. FatBear

    FatBear Member

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    I just looked up Milton, DE on Google Earth. There isn't much population around there within convenient driving distance. Unless Milton is a retirement village, I don't think you will succeed there with a rental darkroom. There might be enough people in Dover, but I can tell you that the entire San Diego county cannot support one rental darkroom, so you would have to work really hard to make sure you put it in the right place and did really good marketing. Portland, Oregon, has two of them, but one of them is very heavy into the digital darkroom with the wet darkroom as a small addition.
     
  15. jvo

    jvo Subscriber

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    any meetup groups?

    you might want to check on some digital folks/groups, (please forgive my transgression...) - we have a couple here that share space/costs/etc. and have been interested in putting in a darkroom in their meeting space. (some of those digital folks are not so bad, once you get to know them...:blink:)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 6, 2012
  16. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    That's bigger than my house!


    Steve.
     
  17. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Christopher, think small! There is little demand for obsolescent technology. For B&W photography, you don't need such huge seperate rooms. I learned darkroom printing in a 4x6 foot darkroom with a pass-through for moving prints to a deep sink for washing. Decades ago the University of Iowa journalism school had one large room with many small booths with enlargers, but everyone processed their prints in a community wet area. At the end of a night, the teaching assistant finished washing and drying the prints. A few tiny darkrooms were available for loading film into daylight tanks. This worked fine for several students working at the same time.

    Heed Tom's advice. The digital age has made such facilities impractical in most locations. If you can't generate the demand, there's no need for the darkroom. Traditional photography hasn't died out, but it certainly has atrophied. I travel 90 miles each month to Kansas City's oldest and still exclusively black & white camera club. There are usually a little over a dozen at each meeting from an area with well over a million residents. Most of those dozen have gone totally digital (it's still B&W!).