Community darkroom keeps film photography alive in Ohio


AKRON, Ohio – A good picture is often viewed, but how often is it?

At Akron’s Community Darkroom, the printing process is part of the magic of photography and owner Joe Dagostino makes sure the art of taking photos with film is not lost.

“It’s just the way you chose to work, whether you want to be in front of a computer or be in a darkroom doing it that way,” Dagostino said. “I have made a commitment to film and continue this process.”

Dagostino developed the idea for his darkroom long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it opened in January 2020, Akron’s Community Dark Room instantly became a creative space where people could develop films in the darkroom and make prints using recycled equipment from other rooms. black.

“This equipment isn’t so much made anymore, and if you’re trying to buy something new, it’s a special order and it’s very expensive,” Dagostino said.

Initially, it was a success. Cinema had seen a resurgence in recent years, with many people looking for more immersive experiences.

“I feel people are overwhelmed with social media and the images don’t last long,” Dagostino said. “When you shoot a movie and make a copy, you have something that you put more effort into than filtering it out and releasing it. “

But when the shutdown took hold, Dagostino was left in the dark.

“It was just a world of strangers. I didn’t know how I was going to pay the rent. I didn’t know how I was going to generate the income, ”he said. “I felt very defeated. Things were going in a positive direction here and I lost all that momentum.

As the dark room had only been open for a few months, Dagostino was unable to get any help in the event of a pandemic for his business. Fortunately, he was able to make a rental deal at his Canal Place location to keep the darkroom open.

“Being rejected because I didn’t have employees at W2 or… showing enough loss of income,” he said. “It was so frustrating because I was brand new, I did something.”

When the shutdown ended and businesses started to reopen, people slowly started to come back.

Fortunately for Dagostino, the return to normal has allowed him to generate income again, but also to continue to teach others about the darkroom process.

“You have so many ways to use a print,” he said. “It’s not so much about documenting a scene, but you can make it your interpretation of how you felt or your emotions at the time.”

Guests can participate in classes to learn how to film, develop in the darkroom and make prints with enlargers. It is also possible to become a member and have 24/7 access to the dark room and all its equipment.

“One of the exciting things is when people develop their first roll of film and they open that cartridge and release that film, there’s excitement there,” he said. “When we get to the printmaking class, and you put that piece of paper in the developer and watch that image develop, that’s the real magic of that.”

Seeing that bulb click when that first impression develops is a feeling that will never grow old for Dagostino.

Its goal is to continue teaching the darkroom process, and hopefully partner with local high schools or colleges to spark the interest of younger people.

“It’s an artistic form. It can help people express themselves, it can help them deal with things emotionally, ”said Dagostino. “Providing space for people to come here is very rewarding.

Akron’s community darkroom is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and has an open house every Tuesday.

Click here for more information.

This story was originally posted by Jon Rudder on WEWS.

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