Obscura Darkroom: A public darkroom serving New Jersey.
Obscura Darkroom, located in Newark, will be the only public film darkroom currently in New Jersey. We will offer classes for teens and adults, open darkroom hours, memberships, and a gallery space focused solely on analog photography. Read below for more information...
Obscura Darkroom: the Vision
My vision for Obscura Darkroom is for it to be a welcoming, inclusive space which promotes film photography in NJ, while simultaneously being a good neighbor to the local community. Plans include classes for home schoolers, summer sessions for teens, and activities for children, as well as adult classes. Obscura will also be a creative center, hosting events focused on film photography. We will be a comfortable and pleasant environment in which to spend your time, with a seating area so you can wait during drying time and chat with others. I am excited to use my skills and experience in the darkroom together with my passion for teaching others to promote film photography in New Jersey.
I first became involved with film photography in high school in 1989... I was photo editor of the yearbook and school newspaper (nerd!), and also focused on my own art. After college, I had no more access to a darkroom, so I left the medium for 2 decades. On the brink of turning 40, I rediscovered my love for photography by taking a continuing education class at the Art Academy of Cincinnati. I subsequently took this class multiple times, and also built my own tiny personal darkroom in the second bathroom of my apartment... with my enlarger on the vanity, and using my bathtub to process prints. While it was great having my own little darkroom, it was even better to have access to a professional space where I could experiment, have adequate room to work, and collaborate with others.
Why Now? Why Here?
After moving to New Jersey in 2014 and joining the Film Shooters Collective, much to my dismay, I found that there were no public darkrooms here. I had to go to Brooklyn to use facilities, as my own darkroom space in my NJ apartment was too small, and had no access to running water. Earlier this year, I had some time off from my work as an in store designer for IKEA, and began brainstorming about possible career changes. During a discussion with a friend, I was asked, "What do you want to do?" I responded, "Teach people how to work in a darkroom." A-ha! Obscura Darkroom was born! I have received positive feedback on the project from members of both the Film Shooters Collective, as well as the Film Photography Project and Negative Positives Film Photography groups. After being mentioned on an FPP podcast episode in July 2018, interest in Obscura exploded, and I hit the ground running. In August 2018 I quit my "day job" to focus solely on making Obscura Darkroom a reality.
What will the money be used for?
Starting up a darkroom is an expensive project. I will be funding most of the construction myself but still need lots of support to purchase equipment and supplies. Besides my own two enlargers, I have received donation promises for 3 more. My goal is to have 8 b/w enlargers (at least 2 for 4x5) and 2 color enlargers. I'm also looking for a color print processor, so Obscura can offer RA 4 printing. The other major costs to be covered are darkroom sinks and silver recovery systems, as well as all the bits and pieces that make up a darkroom. Ebay and Craigslist will be my go to's, not just for financial reasons, but because I believe in giving new life to used equipment. There will also be a retail component to Obscura... film, paper, film developing kits, etc. will be offered to make it very convenient for the customer.
Rewards need to have value for the backer, and I've put a lot of thought into what Obscura offers. There are reward levels at various price points, and for various interests, whether you are a beginner or experienced darkroom user, a long-distance supporter of film photography, or just want a cool t-shirt. Below are some examples of the rewards...
Location, Location, Location:
***UPDATE: 10/15 Just signed a lease for a location in Newark NJ! We have a home! Check out the updates section for more info.***
I am looking for locations in Newark and Jersey City. It's important that Obscura is located near public transportation, not just from New Jersey, but also from Manhattan. It's also very important that the darkroom become a part of an up and coming neighborhood which supports the arts. Due to funding delays, the location isn't set as of the start of this Kickstarter campaign... stay tuned for updates here on Kickstarter, as well as on our Facebook page and website obscuradarkroom.com
Risks and challenges
While there are certainly advantages to being the only public darkroom in New Jersey, there are disadvantages, too. Having no local competition means that Obscura Darkroom is venturing into the unknown. All signs point to success: the website obscuradarkroom.com continues to get multiple hits daily... people are very interested in it, and are continuously connecting with me to share their excitement about Obscura. However, I am breaking new ground with this.
As a first time business owner, I have taken a seminar with Rutger's Business School in Newark to learn the fundamentals of starting a new small business. I have and will continue to network with local film groups, as well as with any and all similar darkrooms in surrounding metropolitan areas, gaining both an audience of potential customers as well as strengthening ties in the East Coast film community. I will mostly fund the startup construction myself, so I'm in this for real. This Kickstarter will help tremendously with obtaining equipment and supplies, and I appreciate everyone who donates!
I'm excited for construction... plumbing and electric and carpentry, oh my! I have experience in managing construction projects and working with contractors in my previous work life, and hope to leverage this experience during the construction of Obscura. My goal currently is to be open by January 2019... hopefully sooner!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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