PUBLIC ASKED TO GET INVOLVED -read how!
A public darkroom, Obscura Darkroom, will open in Newark, NJ in January 2019. Located in the University Heights neighborhood, Obscura will provide open darkroom hours, memberships for unlimited facilities usage, and classes for both adults and teens. In addition to being a darkroom, Obscura will also offer a photographic arts gallery to showcase work by facility and community members.
A resident of Union, NJ, the owner Jen Zehner has been involved in film photography since 1989. In August 2018, she left her 18 year career with IKEA to pursue her lifelong dream of bringing photography to the public. “Accessibility is key.” Zehner says. “There are no other public darkrooms in New Jersey, so Obscura will be a valuable addition to the New Jersey arts community.” She continues, “I wanted to open in a community which is being revitalized, and which is accessible by public transportation. Newark, NJ fit the bill completely.” Located at 50-60 Dickerson Ave, Obscura is researching opportunities to reach out to younger people with interest in analog photography. Zehner explains, “I feel it’s imperative to connect with younger people, to expose them to photography. It provides another avenue for them to visually communicate their unique point of view, while ensuring that the medium stays sustainable and alive in the future.” Classes for home schoolers and youth groups are of particular interest for Zehner, who states “Kids are always amazed by the magic of photography. It’s so easy to get started, there just needs to be a location in which to actually process and print their work. Obscura will be that place!”
Not just for children, Obscura will also serve adults from those new to photography as well as people who are comfortable in a darkroom. They will provide classes ranging from “crash course” introductions to 8 week long seminars which explore the medium in depth and culminate with a final project. Zehner says, “It’s important now for people to explore their creativity, but time and resources are limited. You can see the growing popularity of art classes in general… those ‘Paint and Sip” places are popping up all over. Obscura will give a convenient outlet for those wanting to explore photography, but who might not have time or space to have a setup in their own homes. They can come in, do their work, and have a great time… leaving all the technical setup and cleanup to us!” Zehner continues, “We will offer memberships as a cost effective way for people to utilize our facilities, while supporting Obscura at the same time. Members will have unlimited access to the space during business hours, and will be invited to participate in members’ only gallery shows.”
When asked about the gallery, Zehner became excited. “It was so important for Obscura to also provide a space to share the work that people produce… photography is of course a visual medium, and needs to be seen in order to communicate. Within the context of curated shows and events, these works can take on new meaning and speak louder together.” The gallery will be open to the public, and will showcase both members’ works as well as final projects from classes and community members. Zehner, a member of the Film Shooters Collective, a global group of film photography enthusiasts, hopes to engage the film community with workshops and film related events. She states “There are so many talented photographers working on fantastic things, and I hope to use my contacts to bring these exciting experiences to a greater audience.”
Starting up a darkroom can be an expensive endeavor, says Zehner. “Quite honestly, I need help. So many people have been so supportive of this project, it’s so wonderful to see. But there’s always some other piece of equipment to purchase in order to fully serve customers.” Currently, she is using Kickstarter to involve people in the project. The Kickstarter can be found at (insert link http://kck.st/2C31BzJ) and runs until November 7, 2018. More information can also be found at the website, (insert link obscuradarkroom.com)