There's No Stopping LaToya Ruby Frazier

We’re pleased to see Syracuse University MFA graduate LaToya Ruby Frazier receiving such great recognition for her intelligent and emotional work. From her feature on Art 21 (see the video below) to her current inclusion in the 2012 Whitney Biennial, LaToya continues to inspire!

Call for Entries: 2012 Light Work Student Invitational

Genevieve Marshall, 2011 Best of Show – Selected by Amber Terranova (Editor,PDN)

The 2012 Light Work Student Invitational will feature a selection of photographs by Syracuse University students selected by our guest juror Jörg Colberg (Publisher and Editor,Conscientious). The selected images will be showcased on Light Work’s LCD screen from March – May 2012. Our guest juror will select the winner of Best of Show and Honorable Mentions. These students will be featured on the Light Work blog and an online exhibition.

Dr. Jörg M. Colberg was born in Germany in 1968. After obtaining his Ph.D., he moved to the United States in early 2000. Colberg is the Publisher and Editor of the popular website Conscientious, one of the most widely read blogs dedicated to contemporary photography.

All interested students should submit via email to

– 3 images, saved as .jpg, 72dpi, sRGB, and sized to 1,600px on the longest dimension. Title files: FirstnameLastname_01.jpg, FirstnameLastname_02.jpg, FirstnameLastname_03.jpg
– In the e-mail, include your name, major, grad/undergrad, e-mail, and phone number. Please follow the directions carefully. Incomplete submissions will not be considered.


* Download a PDF of the flyer here.

Another satisfied artist

We received this note from an artist who recently made the transition to digital printing here at Light Work/Community Darkrooms. This is exactly the place to make that change and have it be fun. Read on to hear about Michelle’s experience in her own words.

“. . . I hope to be back in Syracuse next weekend or early the following week. I haven’t felt this excited in a long time! I basically came up to Syracuse with a vague notion of wanting to make a tightly edited portfolio of ten to twelve 16 x 20 prints. The images are from a project I’ve been working on for the past ten years—a mix of medium and large format film.

I have never seen a photograph printed larger than 8 x 10. I think I just wanted to see what these images looked like big. I do have a darkroom at home that I could have used, but I often find it difficult to stay focused when I am at home with so many distractions. . . .

Last Monday, I spent close to ten hours printing in the artist’s [black-and-white] darkroom. I have been printing for thirty years. I couldn’t even begin to calculate how many hours of my life I’ve spent in the dark, hovering over trays of chemicals. By the end of the day I was exhausted and frustrated. I couldn’t face the thought of spending another minute printing in the darkroom. By late Monday evening, I had made up my mind: my [traditional black-and-white] printing days were over.

I’ll admit, the Imacon scanner was intimidating. The process of creating a proper scan and then prepping the file for printing in Photoshop felt overwhelming. On Wednesday, I learned that most of the scans I had done the previous day weren’t very good. I had clipped both the shadows and the highlights. I felt like crying and calling my mother to come pick me up, which wouldn’t have been practical as she lives in Florida. [Digital Lab Manager] John Mannion just smiled and said, “It would be easy to give up right about now. Go back in there and get a proper histogram.”

Wax on, wax off, Grasshopper. I dialed up James, one of the Light Work mentors. It took him all of ten minutes to materialize. I’ve waited much longer for pizza delivery. He held my hand through two or three scans. Everyone helped with Photoshop suggestions. [Customer Service Manager] Vern Burnett even got me to re-think one of my images, which changed the way I ultimately cropped it. By Friday, I felt like I was finally getting the hang of it: producing scans that preserved all of the detail in the highlights and shadows, at least where the detail was relevant. I was making nice files in Photoshop using adjustment layers.

The highlight of the week was attending Rachel Herman‘s opening reception [for Imp of Love]. I connected with her and her work immediately. We spoke at length. DC has no shortage of photographers, but most of the photographers I know essentially wear one hat: the wedding photographers shoot weddings for the sake of booking more weddings; the newspaper and wire photographers shoot for their respective employers; the commercial photographers are working for ad agencies and corporate clients. I know very few photographers whose work-for-hire is used as a means to an end. I often feel like I’m working in isolation.

This past week was transformative. It literally changed my life. I’ve learned a new set of skills and an entirely new way of working. Light Work for me is like an oasis!


Covering photography

The Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University’s Bird Library, which is right down the street from Light Work, contains an amazing 100,00 printed works and 2,000 archival collections. As part of its Spring 2010 programming, the Center is featuring the exhibition Covering Photography: Imitation, Influence, and Coincidence. The show’s guest curator, Karl Baden (Light Work Artist-in-Residence, 1985), is the founder of the web-based archive Covering Photography. Both the website and the exhibition explore the relationship between the history of photography and book cover design. Comparing the book covers to their “source” images, this relationship ranges in strength from direct appropriation to the possibility of subconscious influence on the designer.

Light Work’s Digital Lab Manager John Mannion worked closely with Baden and the Center to realize the various prints that are staged with the actual books and covers in the show. This project is a great example of the focused, project-specific assistance available through our digital services in Community Darkrooms.

The exhibition runs through April 30, and Karl Baden will host a gallery talk about the project on Tuesday, March 2 at 5pm.

Covering Photography: Imitation, Influence, and Coincidence
January 19-April 30, 2010
Special Collections Research Center
Bird Library, Syracuse University
111 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, New York  13210

Keith Johnson stops by for a visit

Today 2005 Artist-in-Residence Keith Johnson stopped by Light Work and Community Darkrooms on his way back home to Connecticut after spending some time at Visual Studies Workshops in Rochester. We got the chance to see some beautiful work from his Extended Landscape, Suite Niagara, and Grids series.

At left, we (l-r Mary Goodwin, Keith, Hannah Frieser) enjoy a couple pictures from the Grids series as well as some of Keith’s great stories from his travels to places as diverse as the Mayan ruins of the Yucatan Peninsula and St. Louis.

Community Darkrooms reopens

Light Work/Community Darkrooms reopened September 8 new and better than ever. We renovated our digital labs, complete with super fast Epson printers, and added a fantastic lounge to our facility over the summer.

Also in Community Darkrooms, our new Tech Heads are on duty Sunday through Thursday, from 1-6pm, to help you with your image-making. The Tech Heads can get you started with scanning, working in Photoshop, and using our Epson 4880 printers. They can also help you out in the black-and-white lab. Just come in during Tech Head hours and get the answers to the questions you need help on most.

To celebrate our renovated facility and new services, we’re holding a special opening event on September 20. The event is free and open to the public and will start at 12pm with free Apple laptop cleanings by Maccentrix (first come first served), tours, portfolio reviews, and more. At 1pm, we will host a free digital color and workflow seminar by expert Clark Omholt of Spectraflow. Attendees will also be able to pick up a coupon good for 25% off an order from our digital services lab. There will be a raffle to win a free 30 x 40″ print from Community Darkrooms digital services.

Registration for Fall workshops is also open now. Visit our website to see our current offerings and to register.

Change in Digital Technology Brings End for Color Processor

Like many institutions, Light Work has been debating the next steps for our darkrooms and digital labs. As a creative space for artists working in photography and related media, we have always listened to the need of our artists. We have made our best decisions by paying close attention to the ever changing needs of the photographers working in our public access facilities. Back in the early Eighties, Light Work decided to set up its first computer lab (with Amiga computers), when artists started coming to our Artist-in-Residence Program with projects that they were hand-programming into computers. Then, it was the artists, who showed us what all could be done with this emerging technology. By now much has changed. Gone are the days when computer art was a fringe art— raw and experimental. But we are also past the second wave of artists, who would come to us full of questions on how to get started with their first digital prints. Now we work mostly with artists who may or may not still be shooting with film, but all of whom want to print digitally. Some of them are still printing edition prints on Lambda printers using the color process, but almost none still hand-print color prints. In fact, the last pool of over 250 applications for the Light Work AIR Program not a single photographer requested to work on the color printer. So clearly it is time to rethink.

In the past we were decided to hold on to the color processor as long as possible. Enter “photography artist residency” and “color processor” in just about any search engine, and the search results lead directly to Light Work’s AIR program. But those days are coming to an end. Based on input by many different artists and the changing trend in artists needs, we have decided that the time is drawing near to say good-bye to our color processor. We have seen stunning prints roll off our Hope processor, and the technology served us well for decades. But the future clearly lies with the digital processes. Light Work’s digital lab, under the knowledgeable leadership of Digital Lab Manager John Mannion, is bursting at the seams in its section of Community Darkrooms. Meanwhile the color processor is only infrequently in use and most individual color darkrooms are collecting dust.

For those of you still printing black-and-white, rest assure that we will keep those wet labs going. The artist interest for black-and-white has held steady. For those of you working in digital or wanting to work in digital, keep an eye on our programs. We plan to expand workstation environments with Imacon film scanners, top-of-the-line computers, and viewing stations to our facilities. Printing exhibition-ready digital prints with Community Darkrooms will be easier than ever once we have reworked our space. Are we sad about the impending loss of our processor? A little. But the future for artists is brighter than ever. We keep seeing work like the photographs by Ben Gest that reinvent what is now possible through digital processes.

A few years ago, Christopher Secor curated the exhibition Digital Transitions from photographs in the Light Work Collection. The exhibition examined the changes in digital photography by looking at the work completed by Light Work’s Artists-in-Residence between 1990 and 2005. Secor describes, “The exhibition provides an enticing glimpse at digital photography’s young history as we look at these works and consider the digital transition taking place, with new technologies redefining what photography may become in the near and distant future.” As more and more artist work spaces are having to make similar decisions as Light Work has, we are already standing firmly in tthis time of change. We are ready, and we are looking forward to what is ahead.

(images: (left) Terry Gips, In the Forest, 1990,  (right) Ben Gest, Jessica and her Jewelry, 2005)

Hot off the printer: Community Darkrooms

Community Darkrooms has been busily printing exhibition prints for Admas Habteslasie. The images are now featured in our exhibition Limbo that opened March 16.

It’s a rarely mentioned secret that Light Work/Community Darkrooms regularly prints entire exhibitions under the watchful eye of our digital lab manager John Mannion. These images end up in world-class museums and collections, like Susan Opton’s prints and banners (shown here being sewn together at Community Darkrooms) that will be exhibited at Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain in Great Expectations: Contemporary Photography Looks at Today’s Bitter Years from March 28-June 14, 2009.

When we print the work for our own exhibitions, we only have to move the prints across the hall for framing, yet more often than not these prints travel across the country and the world.

We're kicking off 2009 with new workshops!

Light Work / Community Darkrooms is proud to offer all new workshops for Spring 2009. Check out our new offerings at Community where you can both register and pay online.

Happy New Year!