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Playing in the Dark

Eugene group seeks to resurrect a dark art

For photographers who came of age during the film era, the experience of seeing that very first image materialize in the developing tray is remembered as magical or uncanny. That the miracle often occurred in an educational setting as a shared communal experience deepened the impact.

Yes, community darkrooms left a fond residue in the mind as well as on the fingertips. But alas, their influence has faded. With photography’s transition from film to digital now mostly complete, community darkrooms have largely disappeared from the national landscape, Eugene included.

And with that shift, an opportunity for shared experience has given way to privatized practice. 

Enter Eugene Darkroom Group, a consortium of film shooters dedicated to building a community darkroom here in town. EDG imagines the space as a center for printing, classes, and creative collaboration around film-based processes.

After slowly taking form over a few years, the group’s pace has accelerated, and they are now applying for non-profit status. 

Where will the darkroom be and who will use it? Both questions remain unsettled.

Former darkrooms at Dot Dotson’s and Maude Kerns Art Center have been floated as tentative sites. Group leaders have identified a local community of 30 to 35 amateur film shooters who would serve as the membership base.

Final decisions remain to be made. At this point EDG is focused on raising the legal fees to incorporate as a nonprofit. Their first fundraiser is 7 to 10 pm Saturday, June 3, at Sam Bond’s Foundry, 540 E. Eighth Avenue, where local film photography will be exhibited and offered for sale.

EDG can also be contacted at eugenedarkroom@gmail.com and on Facebook at @eugdark.