I hope that USM Art and Design will reconsider its decision to close the darkroom. Once it is closed and the space given over to something else there will not be a way to bring it back, and it will create a vacuum in the arts program in my opinion.
In the fine art photography world using film is not dead. It is becoming more popular as artists have now used the digital medium and not found it is all it was cracked up to be. Most artists like working in both digital and film and it is a plus to know both mediums. It can also be a way for an artist to stand out in a crowd.
As Will Jacks, a Mississippi photographer said, “Understanding how a darkroom works makes you a much better photographer even when using digital techniques. It teaches—or perhaps forces—thoughtfulness if nothing else, which is vital in the arts.”
And from former USM student Olivia Grey Pritchard: “I still work in a wet darkroom occasionally by choice. It is not the same as digital photography, and as a photographer with a successful studio in New Orleans, I don’t believe one learns the same skills without starting with film and a wet darkroom.”
Digital photography is great, but combined with analog photography it makes an even stronger and diversified arts program.
Photography is one of the most popular programs in most art and design programs. And programs that still have darkrooms have an added attraction.
Our darkroom classes are electives at this point, which is OK. They are popular and fill up quickly. They draw students from other faculties in the university, which introduces more students to our arts and design program. A lot of our students would love to have at least a minor which could be possible in photography. I think if we promoted this we could use it as a way draw to increase our enrollment.
The darkroom is in good enough shape that we can keep it going without major financial commitments. We also have alums who have endowed the photography program in the past and might be interested in helping to keep it going if we need to make some improvements in the future. So budget reasons are not the best reasons for closing the darkroom.
Adjunct Professor of Photography