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Sixty Inches from Center Fri Sep 16 2011

The Only Game in Town: Interviewing Chicago Community Darkroom


This article was originally published on Sixty Inches from Center on Sept. 12.

By Miles Johnson

The invention of the camera gave the world the ability to capture a single moment and preserve it on film. No longer would people have to rely on paintings or their own murky memories to recall the past. In a photograph one could peer into yesterday just as it was then. With photography one could effectively stop time. So how ironic is it that film, this original vehicle of permanence, has been powerless to halt the rise of digital photography? Now anyone with a cellphone, much less a camera, can snap a picture and view it instantly. If one requires a physical copy any Walgreens or computer printer can print one out . Cameras, as they have transitioned from skilled tool to everyman's toy, have transcended the need for film.

And yet Andreas Gursky, who until recently held the record for the most expensive photograph ever sold, uses a film camera. In a skilled photographer's practice, the film development process remains an essential tool, and the darkroom is at the center of that process. The recently founded Chicago Community Darkroom is Chicago's only public darkroom. Currently, it stands as an invaluable resource to community members that require a place to craft their work. But CCD also has plans to educate the public on what some see as a "lost art." I spoke with Daneil Fitzpatrick to learn more about the past, present, and future of Chicago Community Darkroom.


Tell me a little bit about Chicago Community Dark Room.

Chicago Community Darkroom is a place that is dedicated to keeping traditional wet film processing and printing available to photographers of all skill levels and experience. We want to make sure that photographers who choose grain over pixels have a place that allows them to do their work. CCD is a membership based program. You have the option of using the space for a daily rate of twenty dollars for a six-hour session, or you can have access for an entire month for only $50. We supply everything from the equipment to the chemicals. All you need is the negatives and paper. It's a pretty beautiful thing.

What were your reasons for starting CCD?

It was started by a group of people who really thought this place is important, not only for themselves but also for other photographers. There was no such thing as a public darkroom. The only darkrooms that exist in this city are places like universities that do not offer the space to the public or even alumni. Otherwise if you are lucky enough to have the space and the equipment, a temporary bathroom set up seems to be a lot of people's solution to this problem. We wanted to make sure there was a place for analog photographers, somewhere they could call their own. That place is Chicago Community Darkroom.

I understand that there have been other community darkrooms in the past. What makes yours different?

darkroom1.jpgCCD is a reincarnation of a few different darkroom organizations that existed in the past. It was once the Midwestern Academy of Modern Art and also Negative Space. I personally came across the space looking for a darkroom to use. I found a listing for Negative Space and went knocking on the door the same day. Upon arrival I found a space that was a little beat up. I met with a few other interested photographers a few weeks later at MultiKulti, and we began discussing what needed to be done to get the space back in working condition and available.

That was over four months ago. The place has come a long way. We are an organized group of people with a few of us volunteering our time to make sure the place is taken care of and maintained properly. We've redone the plumbing, improved ventilation, and got all the equipment repaired and organized along with a bunch of other improvements with many more to come.

What types of people have been making use of the darkroom?

All types. Everyone from students, teachers, and hobbyists to professional photographers. It is so great seeing such a diverse group of people showing up at our door.

What has the response been so far?

People seem to be really happy to have it around. The word is starting to spread, and we are hearing from more and more people that are interested in using the space.

Where would you like to see Chicago Community Darkroom in a year?

Well first of all, I just hope to see that CCD is still around in a year. Hopefully people feel the same way that we do about this place and come and share the experience with us. If we start seeing more people knocking on our doors I think possibly relocating or even opening a second CCD is in our future. We are currently a small operation with 6 working stations. I would like to see us have more space and equipment. We also have plans to start offering affordable courses where people can come and learn everything from the fundamentals of photography to more advanced techniques and processes. We have lots planned and it is all too exciting.

What projects or events are in the works currently?

We are planning to have a few different types of events in the near future. We want to start organizing shows for analog photographers, the first of which will be in the beginning of October (TBA). We will be accepting submissions from anyone who wants to participate. Everyone may not be able to show at once, but like I mentioned, this will be the first of many. We'd like to start joining up with different galleries and spaces that are interested in showcasing today's analog photographers.

We also want to start offering affordable courses for anyone who is interested in analog photography. Course topics will range from anything from the fundamentals of working with a manual camera, to processing the film and making the final prints. We have also discussed offering more advanced classes for people who are interested in learning how to work with larger format cameras. We have many more projects and ideas that we have for CCD, and all will come in good time. We can't wait to get this ball rolling.

For more information on Chicago Community Darkroom please visit their website.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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