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Develop your film at the Chicago Community Darkroom

Last week's article discussed the Emulsion Gallery, a store that is a valuable resource for professional and amateur film photographers all over Chicago. Located in Wicker Park, the Emulsion Gallery sells cameras ranging from professional models to Do-It-Yourself kits, different types of specialized film, and hosts several workshops that teach basic photography techniques. The one resource the Gallery lacks, however, is a public darkroom space where visitors could develop their film.

Interior  Black and White Photography Darkroom
Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Fortunately for local Photography enthusiasts, the Chicago Community Darkroom is located a few blocks down on 1000 N. Milwaukee Avenue.

The Chicago Community Darkroom's place of residence is a rather unassuming office building, the classic brown-brick factory/apartment complex-turned business center. Inside, however, are a plethora of darkroom facilities, some dark, and some glowing with a blood-red light (one kind is used for developing color photographs, and the other for black and white). Each kind of room is equiped with a variety of chemicals and emulsions to develop the photograph in certain ways, and stop baths to halt the photograph's development.

Currently, you need to sign up for a 30-day membership to gain day-to-day access to these Darkrooms. Each membership package costs $75 dollars, with a $5 dollar discount for those who try to renew their membership early. It's an acceptable fee for professional photographers and dedicated hobbyists, but a bit pricy for those with a lower level of commitment.

Fortunately, each Wednesday from 7-10pm there's a “Print Out” open house event, where laypeople can stop by, check out the facilities, and talk with the resident photography experts (“bringing cookies” during this time is strongly encouraged). During this “Print Out”, visitors can make use of the darkroom facilities and their chemicals after paying a $10 lab fee, a cheaper option for photographers who develop photos on an infrequent basis.

For photographers who want to learn more about the tricks of the trade, the Chicago Community Darkroom hosts several workshop classes on a weekly basis. The “Intro to Film Development” course, which runs each Monday from 7-10pm, lays out the basics of how to use certain film types and chemicals, load film into reels, and coax a photograph into clarity, while the upcoming “Black and White Film Introductory Workshop”, which will take place on Saturday, May 31st, will teach guests how to take, process, and print black and white photographs using any standard 35mm film camera.

The Chicago Community Darkroom, along with several other local groups and businesses, form an economy and subculture for classic film photographers in Chicago, and provide a space where the artistic nature of photography can be vibrantly expressed.

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