Darkroom history













On February 10, 1997, the City of New York 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 for $1.00.

Volunteers and supporter of No Rio immediately began brainstorming ways to both make money and to transform all four floors into community facilities.

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 Partnership program.

The darkroom 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.