Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, OR closed this week. For the local photography community, it’s a sudden and disappointing loss.
It was the only public darkroom between Olympia, WA and San Francisco. Their classes, while not inexpensive, were a mosaic of delights. Nowhere else in PDX do I know of a place where I can learn how to make a Digital-to-Darkroom Silver Platinum Print.
Their digital lab is something that could be had through many other printing services. But not for the same reasonable price. Nor is it hands-on, like it was at Newspace. My best large inkjet prints are ones that I made. Now that option is gone, unless I’m willing to invest a significant amount into a large inkjet printer.
The greatest thing about it was community. I loved being in the darkroom with other film photographers. I bought my mother a senior membership, and after a long absence, she returned to photography. People I met in classes were part of what made it enjoyable. Exposure to their work and ideas, was always a big reason to go.
All ages and skill levels were welcome. There was something for everybody. Kids, seniors, anyone. A friend of mine taught a class there for children who are sick with cancer. Newspace wasn’t only a photography facility, it was a community partner.
I was fortunate to have a print in the 2016 Member Show. It was a nice moment on opening night, seeing so many people happy to support local photographers. Had I known that Newspace would close now, I would have savored it even more.
But there was no sign of this coming. In hindsight, there did seem to be less and less use of Newspace facilities last year… at least when I was there. Word is less people were signing up for classes. Gentrification, rising costs-of-living, and traffic could’ve played a role in decreased attendance.
Combine this all with less funding and the changing nature of photography markets. Now it becomes understandable why it closed, albeit not easier to accept.
Newspace was an oasis for the old and now niche art of film photography. Film still lives on in PDX at Blue Moon Camera & Machine, but no longer will I have access to a darkroom.
I was never interested in going back to analog full-time – my digital is way ahead of my film, at the moment. But while businesses do close and obsolescence came for the darkroom, I’m happy to have spent time in it. Too have that experience again, perhaps for the last time, was worth it to me.
To the Newspace staff and volunteers, thank you.