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August 25, 2022

Community darkroom in Kensington aims to make photography more accessible

The Halide Project, a nonprofit organization, opened the space to encourage the city's vibrant arts scene

Arts & Culture Photography
community darkroom The Halide Project CJ Harker/The Halide Project

The Halide Project, a nonprofit arts organization, opened a community darkroom this summer in Kensington at 1627 N. Second Street. It aims to provide artists with resources and a space to produce their own work.

A nonprofit organization in Philadelphia is helping fulfill the needs of aspiring photographers by creating a place where artists can gather and produce their own work.

The Halide Project has opened the city's only community darkroom in Kensington to provide film photographers with time, space and resources. The organization hopes it will make photography more accessible for those interested in traditional processes.

The Halide Project, based in Kensington, is an arts nonprofit that serves the community through exhibitions, educational programming and collaborations with other groups.

Funding for the project was provided by a grant from the Penn Treaty Special Services District, which matched donations from individuals and collectives.

Opening a community darkroom was always a goal of The Halide Project, and volunteer board members spent years designing and building the darkroom to meet the local photography community's needs.

"The greater Philadelphia area has a vibrant and robust arts scene, but resource availability and accessibility doesn't always feel on par with the needs of the community," said Dale Rio, co-founder of The Halide Project. "Our hope is to provide those interested in learning about or practicing darkroom-based photo arts affordable space and educational opportunities, as well as to build and support the local darkroom photo community."

Despite the existence of digital photography (and cell phones), there is a high interest in film and historic process photography. The new darkroom will provide tools for photo-based artists, including local university photography students who want to continue darkroom practice during school breaks or after graduation.

Photographers can utilize multiple facilities, such as a black-and-white group darkroom, a processing area for roll or sheet film, a UV exposure unit and coating area, and a private darkroom for color film and print processing. 

Those interested in using the darkroom must first complete a new member orientation, which covers darkroom policies. Once completed, photographers can access the space on an hourly sliding scale and fixed monthly cost which aims to make the facilities as financially accessible as possible. The hourly rate is $5 minimum or $12 suggested. The monthly rate is $15.

Lab monitors will be on hand if photographers need a bit of help with the equipment, but new members who want to learn more also can take intro, intermediate and advanced workshops.

"Photography has an enormous amount of barriers to entry, and we're hoping to lower as many as possible through access to equipment, education and a community of lifetime learners," Adam Schachner, a board member for The Halide Project, who is instrumental in running the darkroom, said. "I would like to see The Halide Project inspire more photographers and artists to play and try something new. So far, folks have been ecstatic to finally have a place to come develop their film, print their negatives and talk to other folks about what they are working through."

The darkroom is located within the nonprofit's space at 1627 N. Second Street. The Halide Project is currently working on expanding its facilities further and is planning a grand opening event after the 20/20 Photo Festival at the end of September.

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