10, 1997, the City of
offered ABC No Rio a deal: if No Rio could raise enough money
to renovate the 4-story tenement at 156 Rivington into a full
community arts center, the City would give them the building
and supporter of No Rio immediately began brainstorming ways
to both make money and to transform all four floors into
The idea of a
low-cost community darkroom emerged from the lack of
affordable walk-in darkroom facilities in both the
neighborhood and the city.
For over a
year, volunteers worked to renovate a neglected third-floor
apartment above No Rio’s gallery and performance space.
Electricity, plumbing and even walls and floors were redone to
accommodate the change from a tenement dwelling to a
functioning black-and-white darkroom.
In May 1999,
the darkroom at ABC No Rio opened to the public. That summer,
volunteer instructors taught free photography classes to
neighborhood youth ranging from ages 7 to 19. The next summer,
ABC No Rio collaborated with Cooper Union to offer free photo
classes to high school students through the Community Arts
has continued to serve as a resource for those who need it.
Curious beginners, neighborhood artists and activists, and
even visiting international photographers have used it to
develop and print photos of the cityscape, loved ones,
abstract images and even faraway fishing villages and rural
communities. In an age where digital technology is quickly
rendering black-and-white photography facilities obsolete, the
darkroom at ABC No Rio continues to provide a space in which
not only can photographers do their work but also share ideas,
experiences and stories with each other.