Light Work Lab Renovation

From June 15 through July 15, 2015, Light Work Lab is undergoing renovation. Below is a letter from Light Work Lab Manager Walker Blackwell addressing many exciting changes, limited space closings during the renovation, and more.

Dear Light Work Lab Community,

I’m writing you with some exciting news! Light Work Lab is undergoing a much anticipated renovation. Following this, our little lab founded over 40 years ago and housed at Syracuse University will continue as the best community-access lab in the world.

Renovations begin on June 15, 2015 with an anticipated completion date of July 15, 2015. Please see below for more details, including information on room closings during the month-long renovation. Be sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter streams for updates on the progress of the renovation and more.

Q: What does this renovation mean long term?

A: Tons. Printing and scanning workflows get streamlined, physical workspace gets re-arranged, upgraded lighting throughout, new computers and printers, more magnetic-wall space, flat-file storage for the community, all lab furniture goes mobile to allow for expanded programming, and so much more. We’ll post all these new amazing things that members have access to at over the next month.

After a long period of consideration and thought we’ll be decommissioning the developing labs and large darkroom for many reasons that we explain below. Fear not! The advanced darkroom will always exist for community use, as well as sinks in multiple locations. We’re confident this is the right decision and are happy to answer any questions you might have.

(Too much to handle? Walker’s direct google voice cellphone number is 802.821.4451 if this causes you panic and you need to ask questions immediately.)

Q: What does this mean in the short term (now through July 15)?

A: If you have a backlog of B&W film to develop and print analogue, now is the time to get rolling! Have you been waiting for a reason to organize a group photogram party? This is your opportunity. Come in and say your goodbyes to the large darkroom before June 10th. After renovation our advanced darkroom will be open for business (you can reserve it now by calling 315.443.1300).

From June 15 to July 15 the large workroom (where cutting tables are currently located), lighting studio, and darkrooms will be closed. During the renovation all lockers will be converted to roller lockers. We’ll box the locker contents, number the boxes, and make them fully accessible to their owners for that month of construction.

The large cutting tables are temporarily moving to the hallway near the open lab, so they will still be accessible (but cozy). Scanners are moving to the open lab, Artist-in-Residence studios, and service lab. The renovation will not impact people working digitally very much, though getting around during the renovation is going to be a bit tight.

Q: Why are you taking away the developing lab and large darkroom?

A: This decision was difficult and not made lightly. The advanced darkroom is not going anywhere, and will maintain full functionality forever. We’ll still offer Intro to the Dark Arts sessions and will be maintaining sinks in our larger project spaces. We will always be committed to film photography. The only difference is now darkroom access requires a reservation by calling 315.443.1300. This is the same process currently in place for the lighting studio.

Darkroom usage has dropped over the past several years and that space can be used in better ways. We attribute this to a few reasons: silver film/paper is now very expensive, consumables are hard to find in this area (MQ Camera closing, etc), and inkjet printers are now very high quality. And finally, our digital workflow is advanced enough to support a true transition now that we have a Piezography K7 monochrome print system (developed in-house, by the way).

We are very excited to usher Light Work into a new era of improved productivity, service, and technical and creative excellence. We have a small space for what we do, and we want to use every square foot.

Q: What is physically changing at Light Work? Will I recognize the place?

A: Yes! We’re not tearing out that many walls, but we are dramatically reorganizing our space to streamline workflow. It’s a fun project. The equipment and where people work is changing.

We are also really excited about upgrading the lighting in the lab. We are installing gallery/museum spec 5000k LED bulbs with special violet phosphors, 60 degree beam spreader lenses, and 4200k warming filters. The light will be nothing but revolutionary. All fluorescents will be kept off. Yay!

Q: What else can we look forward to with the renovation?

A: Following construction, we plan on hosting Saturday digital intro classes in the open lab in addition to our ongoing Sessions. Printing, cutting, and other production related activities will take place in the new, large production room. This switch will open up the space for education and help us support members by providing better access to front-desk and service staff. This is a huge improvement from our current layout where members work almost 80 feet away from the nearest staff member who can help them. With printers, gallery lights, magnet walls, cutters, and flat-files closer to each other, everything is easier to do. New flat-files will facilitate large-format print storage for the community. From scanning to storage, Light Work Lab has you covered.

We are thrilled about the expanded potential for serving as an improved site for community art events, happenings, and more in Syracuse. The space will be accessible and lit well-enough for any member to have a studio or curatorial visit, or to host a critique group, etc. Because lab furniture will be on wheels, all tables/lockers/printers will be able to roll out at a moment’s notice making space for lectures, experimental workshops, portfolio reviews, movie nights, art performances, and more.

We at Light Work Lab are incredibly excited for this renovation and the potential it brings for the art community in Syracuse. We look forward to seeing more of you soon!

All the best,
Walker Blackwell
Manager, Light Work Lab

Topher by the River, 2012

“What is She Doing There?”:
Susan Lipper on Kristine Potter

The Light Work blog is excited to present this reflection by Susan Lipper, recent Guggenheim Fellow and 2004 Light Work Artist-in-Residence, on the work of Kristine Potter, 2014 Light Work Artist-in-Resident. Both graduates of the Yale Photography MFA program and women photographers working out West, it is a unique pleasure to read Lipper’s words on Potter’s images.

In thinking about Kristine Potter’s fascinating Manifest series, Gertrude Stein’s off-quoted phrase “there is no there there” came to mind: that beyond our looking at these exquisitely crafted images, taken over three years on the Western Slope of Colorado, both portraits and landscapes, we are also looking at a fantasy of a fantasy.

The artist has undertaken to flip some of our most persistent cultural tropes: America, a woman alone on the road, the West, wilderness, and the state of man in nature. She has also consciously deployed a motif (dear to me) of the subjective documentary approach, where beyond that being depicted, we are also expected to consider the identity of the photographer. At the very least, it seems integral to the reading of this work to know the photographer is a woman. (Even if we weren’t told the gender of the photographer, these images of men don’t look like the work of a peer’s or at least someone they have no romantic interest in, as evidenced by many of their telling gazes.)

Garrett, 2013

Garrett from Manifest, 2013

Summer Landscape (Sun’s Camouflage), 2013

Summer Landscape (Sun’s Camouflage) from Manifest, 2013

In addition, this work is interesting because as a woman and photographer, I cannot help but question the imagined personal risk involved in manufacturing these works with all the necessary transaction involved with sitters both pre- and post-portrait session. (In general though the perceived effort behind the making of an image does not sway me.) In reviews of this work I’ve read written by men, this topic is not broached. Perhaps I am reading too much, but the question constantly returns: “What is she doing there?” Why this ongoing playing with chance that the shooting of a portrait in presumed isolated locations with strangers (who are mostly unaware of the art context and perhaps confused by the initial invitation to be photographed) will go as planned and negotiated? This is not to say that the risk taking isn’t completely admirable.

Dean, 2013

Dean from Manifest, 2013

Then, finally, who are these pictures for? Who is the intended audience? Not that it matters because the work is formally rich enough to transcend such divisions. However, I feel we are looking at more than an August Sander–esque documentary series of the Western male archetypes at a particular point in time; we are also looking at a double-sided portrait, containing both an investigation and a projection, where we imagine the self-image of the photographer as some kind of solitary huntress–perhaps lion tamer–and evidence and celebration of a new brand of feminism.

As we follow the artist’s journeys from the “cultivated” East to “wild” West from the cadets of West Point in her 2010 The Gray Line series, to the different uniformed personas of the cowboy and loner in Manifest, we sense an increased risk of personal danger due to these new uncharted and semi-lawless subjects. Her journey perhaps mirrors the once-cherished Manifest Destiny myth where personal heroics ensured our American right to prevail.

Pancho Outlaw, 2014

Pancho Outlaw from Manifest, 2014

Spring Landscape (No Way In/Out), 2014

Spring Landscape (No Way In/Out) from Manifest, 2014

More to the point, I suspect that the photographer, like many of us steeped in the evolving face of patriarchy, is rethinking that grand nostalgic notion. Accordingly the Manifest series intentionally and necessarily aims to record the changing reality versus the well-trodden mythology of the West. Perhaps this is where the truncated but still beautiful landscapes come into play–not that I doubt that Romantic nineteenth-century vistas were also plentiful.

In any case the men depicted here, despite their rugged individuality, do not seem up to the task of discovering/rescuing America. Further, it appears that even our distinct concept of America as an isolated country is fading. How is the country to be seen as actually quarantined from the rest of humanity forced to heed the prevailing forces of global economics and capitalism? So much of the previous search for heroes seems like closing the stable door after the horse has left. Realistically our hopes should probably no longer be with the individual, no matter how much he is like the film character Crocodile Dundee, victorious both in the Outback as well as among the powered elite.

Winter Landscape (spots), 2014

Winter Landscape (spots) from Manifest, 2014

Potter has assembled her male subjects almost as if they were reverse film noir character heroes bathed in western light. However, while they are empathically portrayed, their personal space is intentionally constrained and mostly there is nowhere for them, the artist or viewer to go, which is both symbolic and a breeding ground for confrontation. Admirably these men wish to retain their otherness and resist being commoditized. This friction endows each portrait with an electric charge. So much so that in one of her almost set-like shallow landscapes, Winter Landscape (spots), 2014, I persist in reading the trace of a bullet hole piercing “the surface” of dense vegetation.

Susan Lipper is a New York based artist. She received her B.A. in English Literature from Skidmore College in 1975 and her MFA in Photography from Yale University in 1983. Among the monographs on her work are Bed and Breakfast, 2000; trip, 1999; and GRAPEVINE, 1994. Lipper is represented, amongst other places, in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, and the 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship. She was a 2004 Artist-in-Residence at Light Work. She is currently working on an ongoing project in the California desert as the final chapter in a trilogy of her travels from East to West.

Kristine Potter was born in Dallas, Texas and lives and works in New York City. She earned both a BFA in Photography and a BA in Art History at the University of Georgia in 2000. From 2000 – 2003 Kristine lived and worked as a professional printer in Paris, France. In 2005 she earned her MFA in Photography from Yale University. Potter’s work has been exhibited in Paris, New York City, Miami, Atlanta and Raleigh, NC. Her work is in numerous private and public collections, including the Georgia Museum of Art, and has been recently featured on,, among others. She is represented by Daniel Cooney Fine Art in New York City, where she exhibited her 2015 solo show, Manifest.