Photos_courtesy_of_the_Community_Darkrooms_and_Light_Work At_the_crossroads_of_contempory_photography
New York City installation artist Ernesto Pujol came to Syracuse earlier this year with several traditional color-print portraits of nuns. A month later—through the magic of digital imaging—he left with huge print images of the sisters for use in an upcoming project. For Pujol, the month-long visit to Syracuse was a blessing. Thanks to the Artist-in-Residence Program at Light Work, an SU-based, artist-run, nonprofit organization devoted to contemporary photography, Pujol had the time and resources to work on three projects and explore digital imaging. "Light Work is truly an artist-centered place, which is extremely hard to come by," he says. "It's a model program—one of the best in the country."

      One person Pujol turned to for help with computer work during his stay was Mark Sottilaro '99, a computer graphics major in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Sottilaro chairs the board of the Community Darkrooms, Light Work's sister organization that provides photography and imaging facilities for SU students and the public. "I see the Community Darkrooms as a place to meet other artists, interact with other students, and work with artists-in-residence like Ernesto," says Sottilaro, a work-study student for three years in the darkrooms. "It's a great benefit to see how other people and professional artists work. The diversity of projects you can become involved in is incredible."
      It's also a locale where someone like Foluseke Somolu '99 can take a basic black-and-white photography class and continue to nurture an interest in photography. Somolu, an international relations major, joined the Community Darkrooms two years ago. Working in the lab, he says, allows him to slow down after a hectic day of classes. "It's a relaxed environment," Somolu says. "The developing and printing process compels patience because of the time it takes. Sometimes it's hard to find the time, but it's a nice break and enjoyable when I do."

      Tucked inside the Watson Theater complex at the corner of Comstock and Waverly avenues, Light Work and the Community Darkrooms truly are a crossroads of contemporary photography. It is a place where amateur photographers and acclaimed artists might meet over negatives at a light table, where the hippest of technologies crosses paths with the standard steps for developing film, and where students and community members gather, exchange ideas, and learn from one another. "People are here," says Community Darkrooms lab manager Vern Burnett, "because they love it."
      At the heart of all these matters is Jeffrey Hoone, Light Work's director for the past 16 years. Under Hoone's guidance, Light Work has achieved an international reputation for its support of contemporary photography. Along with its Artist-in-Residence Program—which annually brings 12 to 15 artists from around the world to Syracuse—Light Work awards grants to Central New York photographers, sponsors special projects, and produces fine arts prints, books, and numerous publications, including the award-winning Contact Sheet, which features the work of visiting artists. It also runs the Robert B. Menschel Photography Gallery in the Schine Student Center and the Light Work Gallery in the Watson complex, and mounts exhibitions in the Goldstein Student Center on South Campus. "We've always had a broad idea of what we think photography is and have always embraced different works, from documentary style to more conceptual and political works," Hoone says. "We try to pay attention to what artists are doing using the medium of photography."

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