USM to Close Darkrooms for Good
Senior Marcus Martin works in the George Hurst darkroom to finish up his final assignments of the semester. The Art Department and Mass Communication and Journalism are both closing their darkrooms after the spring semester ends. -Susan Broadbridge
At the end of the 2015 spring semester, The University of Southern Mississippi’s Department of Art and Design and School of Mass Communication and Journalism will shut down the black and white photography darkrooms used for wet photography.
According to Howard Paine, associate professor and chair of the Department of Art and Design, the closings are largely the result of several factors, including a decreased budget in the art department, overall limited space in the George Hurst Building and the fact that Southern Miss has no concentration in photography. Also, Paine said there are facility concerns with ADA access and ventilation.
“As an artist, this was a difficult decision to make,” Paine said. “I value my own college experience in wet photography. However, there are several compelling reasons to close the darkroom.”
In addition, the utilization of digital approaches in photography is currently becoming increasingly relevant in comparison to traditional photography methods.
“The transition of the introductory photography from a wet process to a digital one will provide more practical value to our students,” Paine said.
Sophomore graphic design major Brennan Kennedy is a student in the Department of Art and Design and has participated in wet photography courses in the darkrooms. However, Kennedy said he agreed with Paine in that closing the darkrooms is ultimately the most logical decision in an increasingly digital age.
“(Darkroom wet photography) is a diminishing kind of photography,” Kennedy said. “Ever since digital photography came around we’ve been able to achieve the same things as wet photography, just much easier.”
Paine and Kennedy both agreed that, given the circumstances, closing the darkrooms would positively impact the budget, and therefore positively impact USM, because the school will be able to offer more extensive classes within the department.
“It’s sad that wet photography classes are going, because I believe that if you can master this class then you can master photography,” Kennedy said. “However, even though it’s sentimental to me, closing the darkrooms would allow USM to have the funds to essentially update my classes.”
Paine agreed in saying that the positive impact that this decision will have on the budget ultimately outweighs the negatives in removing the darkrooms.
“In the end, closing the darkroom is the best decision for our budget, our facilities and our students,” Paine said. “I have no doubt that art and design students will continue to produce important, challenging and well-crafted art.”