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community darkrooms in chicago area?

john tomljenovic , Dec 19, 2001; 05:06 p.m.

Help...My attempts at trying to do photograpy are diificult. I always wanted to do B&W but having your local minilab process this stuff just looks like poorly desaturated color photos. I looked into getting together my own darkroom, but w/ a small apartment, some cats and 4-6 bikes it is not going to happen. So I gave up on B&W and started shooting slides, mostly sports. But now the monochrme bug has bit me again (I just bought my first roll of infared) and my quest for some darkroom access. My only option is my not so local community college, but that is the more expensive option, since you are signing up for an independent study class. I live in evanston and would love to find something local or even joining a club would be cool. My asking around to all the serious camera shops have come up with nothing. One guy at a shop joked he should open up one since I was like the twentith person to inquire about one. I told him not to joke.

Help! John Tomljenovic


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Patty Mac , Dec 19, 2001; 11:09 p.m.


I myself have been looking for B/W classes/facilities around Chicago, but have yet to actually try any. I came across Triangle Camera, on the North Side - they appear to have a public darkroom facility & also have modest starter classes if needed. Probably a quick EL ride from Evanston, it looks like they're just north of Belmont on Broadway. I'm not sure if the rates are reasonable, but it appears it may be a good option. I have the web site listed below - let me know what you discover.


Greg Jonsson , Dec 20, 2001; 02:57 a.m.


You might try calling Northwestern. The Norris University Center has rental darkrooms. This link: http://www.stuaff.northwestern.edu/norris/articastudios.html gives some info - $12 for a daypass for nonstudents. Norris also offers 6-week mini-courses in B&W photography. You might call and see if that gets you free or cheaper access to the darkroom if you take the class, in which case it might be worth it. Columbia College downtown might rent darkroom time or someone there might know who does. www.colum.edu. Good luck. I'm having the same problem in St. Louis....

john tomljenovic , Dec 20, 2001; 03:36 a.m.

Thanks for the responses people...I live a mile from northwestern, all this time a darkroom was right under my nose! Oh well. Thanks

Johnny t

P.s. If anyone else has places to mention keep it coming. I surely can not be the only one in this predicament.

Ed Berman , Dec 20, 2001; 02:03 p.m.

This question comes up over and over...

Take your white pages, open on "Photographic Darkroom-Rental" and see what your area has to offer. Then call these places for details. Why is it so difficult?

Matthew Nolker , Dec 20, 2001; 02:48 p.m.

I'd like to put in a plug for the Jane Addams Center photography program. It has been around 30 years, and they have three darkrooms that are used exclusively for black and white photography. There is a catch: it's a photography program, not just a darkroom, which means you must sign up for their eight week classes. Each class gets you eight darkroom sessions (you must pick a consistent day of the week) and eight workshop sessions, for $300. You provide paper and film; all chemicals and equipment are provided by the program.

What I like about the program: Over time, you'll share workshops and darkroom time with dozens to hundreds of different photographers of different levels of experience. You'll learn -- and teach -- a lot. Also, they mount four group shows a year, and each draws 400-700 people to the opening. It's easy to participate in these shows, and it is very nice to have your photographs seen.

What I don't like: Well, I like everything. But some fairly advanced photographers don't like the fact that you have to take 16 weeks of "the basics of photography" before being allowed in the advanced sessions. Some don't like the fact that they just can't walk into the darkroom on any night of the week and expect to find a spot.

But if you can get past that, I think that this program has the best combination of affordability and darkroom quality in the city.

You can learn more about it at: http://www.jacphoto.org/ and visit the gallery at: http://www.jmhgallery.org.

Good luck!

Matthew Nolker , Dec 20, 2001; 03:04 p.m.

Just noticed Ed Berman's reply that we should just check out the yellow pages and wanted to respond (without bashing the unhelpful nature of Ed's reply). If only it were as easy as looking up rental darkrooms in the yellow pages -- there is only one listing: Triangle camera. And they are 1) often full and 2) far from the best darkrooms available.

So John's frustration isn't uncommon. I hear it all the time from photographers in this area, including some that presumably know how to use a phone book.

J Wynia , Dec 20, 2001; 07:16 p.m.

Perhaps Ed would like to send me his copy of my local phone book: the one with the Rental Darkroom section. Just because your phone book contains an exhaustive listing of publicly accessible darkrooms (highly unlikely) doesn't mean that the phone book is such a robust tool in every community.

My phone book lists none. There are a couple in my community, but they're not listed there. I managed to find those online. However, they require a $250 certification class in order to use it. What I have found is that in my community there are several other avenues for using other darkrooms. Several of the private trade schools in my area offer darkroom classes as adult education classes that fall in the $25-50 range and sometimes offer an "open" darkoom class for $6 a week for one day a week access. My local community education program offered through the elementary/HS school system does something similar. I only found out about those through mailings and word of mouth. No phonebook entry. No online listing.

Dan Lohmann , Dec 21, 2001; 11:23 a.m.

Tom, I was in the exact same quandry as yourself a few years ago, until someone gave me a (very) beat-up old enlarger. As a sort of experiment, I blacked out the windows in my bathroom with aluminum foil, bought some chemistry, paper, and trays, and just started making prints. I actually set the enlarger on a foot-stool in the tub, because I was so cramped for space! (talk about some alignment issues...) Naturally, I became hooked, and eventually purchased a nicer enlarger that works much better, although I've moved the whole operation into a roomier space. I realize this deviates from your question about community darkrooms in Chicagoland, but my point is that once you "find a way" to get yourself printing at home, it's rather hard to stop-- and a little bit of space management can go a long way.

Shel Belinkoff , Mar 06, 2002; 12:36 p.m.

Hi ...

I'm compiling a list of rental darkrooms and darkrooms that allow public access. The list includes a few places in Chicago and Evanston.


If you know of any other places, anywhere, please send the me the details. If you can, please include the address, phone/fax numbers, email or web site address, and any comments about the facility. Perhaps this list will become useful to those of us who travel.

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