Camera 38: a community darkroom

Camera 38: a community darkroom

Develop your photos of Florence in Florence.

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Sat 04 May 2024 4:10 PM

New on the block in via San Zanobi, Camera 38 aims to be a hub for analog photography enthusiasts in central Florence. Three of the four founders explain all.

Camera 38. Ph. @marcobadiani

How did you come up with the idea?

Michelle Davis: The inspiration came to me when I was in New York a few years ago doing research. I visited a few darkroom communities in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and thought it would be wonderful if this could be done in Florence where the photography scene is teeming with talent, but lacking in spaces.

How was Camera 38 established?

Leonardo Bocci: As four founders (Michelle Davis, Gabriele Fossi, Elisa Norcini and Leonardo Bocci), we are all passionate about analog photography. We are all former students of Fondazione Studio Marangoni and met between the enlargers and chemicals, seen as we all were as darkroom rats during our studies. Fondazione Studio Marangoni has now become a different entity and invited us, alongside the new school for contemporary photography IFC (Iniziative di Fotografia Contemporanea), to take the lead in managing its former spaces in via San Zanobi 38 and 32R. So, now we bask in the red lights of this exciting adventure!

Did you need to restructure the space?

Michelle: It was already organized. It’s actually an important lab for Florence. There are many small labs, people who develop and print at home in their bathroom or garage, but our aim is to become a reference point for all things analog in the city. Here we have a room with 12 photo enlargers, which can be used to print up to the 6×9 medium format. We are equipped with light tables and a high-quality scanner, and are planning on setting up a station for large format printing as well. The space also has its history. Florentine photographer Martino Marangoni, the founder of our former school, initially had his studio here. In the first few months when we had just signed for the space, we put renewed energy into the space and personalized it a bit.

How does it work?

Gabriele Fossi: There are four of us, and we do a shift rotation from Monday to Friday between 10am and 6pm. The space is available upon reservation only, which can be made via email or Instagram. Our business model is that those who want to come to develop and print can pay a fee that includes insurance, chemistry and assistance, and BYOP (bring your own paper!) You come by the hour upon appointment or you can purchase a bundle of 6, 12 or 18 hours, which includes a discount and special student rates.

Who is the service aimed at?

Michelle: The type of customer we have in mind are photographers with proven experience. Show us how you develop! There is always a need for knowledge. We would also like to see what kind of things are being produced as the idea would be to hold exhibitions or even a self-production corner at some point. If someone with no experience would like to use the space, they can get a private tutor or participate in a four-lesson course that teaches all steps from developing a negative to printing in the darkroom, in addition to understanding the camera, creating a contact sheet and other specific aspects of the process. From there, you can purchase one of our hourly punch cards and continue with personal research. We would also like to launch a couple of workshops on advanced photography techniques during the summer.

Next steps?

Michelle: This is a passion project that we hope will appeal to other people. Camera 38 offers tutoring in English and all of the informative materials are translated into English and Italian. We would like to start a service over the summer for people who come to Florence, want to try analog photography and come here to develop their photos. You could have your photos of Florence with the precious touch of having them produced and printed right here in the city. So, hit us up and let’s plan this analog takeover of the town!

To find out more about Camera 38, write to camera38@gmail.com or send a DM on Instagram.

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