Most important to Thompson was the chance to teach Community Darkrooms classes and workshops. "It allowed me to develop as an instructor and enrich my teaching ability," she says. "I was able to take that back into the University community."|
Last semester, she used that expertise to design and teach a VPA undergraduate digital art photography course. Last summer, Thompson, former darkrooms lab manager John Freyer, and Mark Sottilaro taught a pinhole camera workshop to local children. "We had a blast working with these kids," Sottilaro says. "They didn't have any access to photography. We took them into a different world where they made a camera and could see their images later on that day. It was pretty fun."
Sottilaro, who also teaches classes at the darkrooms, focuses most of his attention on multimedia work. He realizes computers can be daunting, but knows darkrooms classes like Introduction to Adobe Photoshop can ease people into using them in their work. "My main concern, and one of the darkrooms' too, is bringing together traditional visual arts and new computer arts," he says. "A lot of new computer-based art is about multimedia interactivity."
For the Light Work and Community Darkrooms staff, the inevitable connection between photography and computer arts poses an ongoing challenge. It means they must move with the evolution, continuing to explore the future while remaining connected to the past. "There are still people who want to do things the way they were done 100 years ago and others who want to do things very cutting edge and high tech," Hesse says. "We try to deal with these issues simultaneously-we don't want to lose sight of where photography has been or where it's headed."
Cultivating a community|
Evidence of this juxtaposition is readily apparent. Consider Digital Allegoryby Martina Lopez, a recent Menschel Gallery exhibition that fuses old-time monochromatic portraits with surreal landscapes. Then wander through the Recent Acquisitionsshow at the Light Work Gallery. In one work photographed by John Freyer, performance artist Saiman Li, painted yellow, strolls past tourists at Niagara Falls. In another, Nancy Floyd presents several portraits of women and their firearms. Others show abandoned theaters, scenes from India, a folk artist, and an old barber chair in a dilapidated state penitentiary.
A step away is the entrance to the Community Darkrooms. Nearly 200 people pass through here each semester. In a rare quiet moment, look around at instructions mounted on walls, bulletin boards weighted with information, and all of the equipment for black-and-white and color printing and digital imagingcomputers, scanners, processors, and printers, not to mention pre-mixed chemicals. Amateur photographer Robert E. Burdick G'51, a longtime darkrooms member, believes the atmosphere and services are unique, supporting a process of continual learning through classes and interaction. He's taken and taught classes and regularly uses the facilities on Tuesday afternoons. "Black-and-white is my major interest, but I've learned how to do color printing and I'm beginning to work a little with the computer," he says. "Can't ignore it."