FILM SPOTS: The Asheville Darkroom | Asheville NC, USA

FILM SPOTS: The Asheville Darkroom | Asheville NC, USA
May 11, 2014 FotoFilmic

cropped-logo_final0713_300pxFILM SPOTS #04: THE ASHEVILLE DARKROOM
Director: Bridget Conn
Location: Asheville, North Carolina, USA
In business since: Summer 2012

FotoFilmic: Can you briefly describe the type of analog photography facilities & services you offer at The Asheville Darkroom?
Bridget Conn: We offer classes, workshops, and public access in BW film developing and printing. Workshops also deal with some digital and mixed media aspects of photography. We offer color film development (C-41) with our Jobo for individuals with prior experience. We are also very close to resurrecting our Fujimoto color print processor (RA-4), which will be capable of making 20″ wide prints. We will offer a full analog color class once the processor is back up.

F/F: What is the human & artistic story behind The Asheville Darkroom?
BC: I moved to Asheville in the fall of 2009 and responded to a Craig’s List ad for someone wanting to start a photo collective and darkroom. As a teacher, I was excited to begin classes and workshops in the space in the spring of 2010. After going through a few transitions, the reins were handed to me in the summer of 2012. I didn’t want it to be a personal darkroom any longer, but a fully-public educational space. So I created a Kickstarter to raise rent for a year, to establish The Asheville Darkroom as a business, and began the paperwork for it to become a 501c3. I serve as the director and primary educator today.

F/F: How do you view the future of the film & analog photography industry? How can The Asheville Darkroom and other small businesses/community places like it help sustain enough interest and passion to keep it alive?
BC: Digital photography has taken over the commercial/business side of photography. It makes sense and I am grateful for it. But some people are starting to realize what they have lost by leaving the darkroom, the importance of process — but only if that is actually worthwhile to them. Everyone else can happily exist with digital, but as long as people want to work with analog processes, I don’t feel it’s going anywhere. Just because people use Adobe InDesign to lay out publications doesn’t mean that others aren’t still using century-old letterpress machines… I know people who are doing it, and it’s because we love the process. Same with the darkroom. Darkrooms are shifting fully into a realm of artistic experiment, and I couldn’t be more excited about what is happening right now in analog photography. Painters thought painting was dead with the invention of photography, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth — painting opened up and became something new. That is exactly what is happening with analog photography now. People who think darkrooms are dead are either more commercial-minded or just aren’t paying attention!

Photo: Amelia Smith with color processor
How to keep it alive… encourage education in the arts. Help society understand that there are countless lessons learned by studying art, ones that can’t be quantified in a standardized test… self-confidence, critical thinking skills, problem-solving… the stuff we actually need to be effective members of society. Reach out to kids and get them interested in self-expression, and encourage their parents to let them pursue it even if it doesn’t succinctly define a path of how to make a living just yet. Get someone passionate and they will find their way.
F/F: What’s the most important, rewarding or joyful aspect of your job at The Asheville Darkroom?
BC: I love when people find us and are really excited because they thought they would never be able to work in a darkroom again. I am also thrilled when I see people getting really excited about learning a new process… it resonates with my own experiences of being so filled with inspiration to create that I could hardly contain myself. A member-turned-friend just left town after being involved for two years, and said before he left, “You made Asheville for me.” It doesn’t get much better than that. 

F/F: How are things right now? Was 2013 a good year? Where would you like to see The Asheville Darkroom 2-3 years from now?
BC: Things are steadily getting better, though we could really use the non-profit status to be able to qualify for grants as an arts organization. We have to do crowd-sourcing fundraisers each year to ensure the doors stay open, and my co-directors and I have always been volunteers. In 2-3 years, I hope the darkroom will be able to have a few employees so I can really throw my energy into how we can grow. I would love to be in a freestanding space where we can have multiple rooms for different purposes. We have a small gallery space (a nook, really) in our building that I would love to see expand into a larger room and pull in nationally-exhibiting artists. I basically hope we can become a major photographic education center in our region. 

F/F:How can we reach you? Any news, announcements or events you’d like to share?
BC: Many ways!, where you can sign up for our emailing list
Having our color facilities up and running again will probably be our biggest announcement. I get calls from out of state from people wanting to work with us. Fingers crossed!


FILM SPOTS focus on existing analog photography businesses (photo labs, public darkrooms, traditional photo stores, etc..) in an effort to both promote them, and fight the general assumption that traditional and film photography industries are  progressively disappearing.