2022 Grants Challenge

Black Image Center Community Darkroom Network

BIC Community Darkroom will fill a gap in the landscape of arts education in Los Angeles, and is designed to empower people to tell their own stories. Our collaboration with Las Fotos Project in Boyle Heights will further create ties between Black and Brown creatives in Los Angeles. Funding will go towards building out the BIC darkroom along with creating a shared curriculum and business model between Black Image Center and Las Fotos Project, to ensure that Black and Brown creatives have equitable and accessible resources across LA.


Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

Las Fotos Project

What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Access to Creative Industry Employment (sponsored by Snap Foundation)

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

East LA

West LA

City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Research (initial work to identify and understand the problem)

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Our Community Darkroom directly addresses one of the biggest barriers to entry for photography- the increasing cost of darkrooms. Compared to other major cities in the US, LA has the lowest number of community darkrooms, with only two accessible to the public for community use- School of Light and Contact. BIC co-founder Samone Kidane turned to the Contact darkroom after the Santa Monica College darkroom shut down during the COVID 19 pandemic. Contact Photo Lab, the cheaper of the two, brands itself as “the last community darkroom in Los Angeles,” and it costs $300 for a two hour mandatory workshop that grants photographers access to the darkroom facilities. Having a range of accessible, community darkrooms is key to the life of a city’s creative community, especially when our local community college darkrooms are closing. By holding space for people to cultivate photography and storytelling skills, we are reminding our community that we know exactly who we are.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

If awarded, the LA 2050 grant would support the physical buildout for the Black Image Center Community Darkroom and the development of inclusive, educational programming in collaboration with Las Fotos Project. Black Image Center already currently has a brick and mortar space, and we are seeking funds to create a functional, accessible darkroom. Our darkroom will be outfitted with at least two enlarger stations and host classes where 5-7 people at a time can learn how to develop both color and black and white film, and create their own darkroom prints. This is important because most community darkrooms across the board are exclusively for developing black and white film. In addition to funding the construction and materials for BIC's darkroom, funds will also support the collaboration between BIC and Las Fotos Project to create a shared curriculum for free programming as well as the development of a business plan which would establish shared pricing models, policies and training for both of our darkrooms, further ensuring that Black and Brown creatives have accessible options, regardless of of their geographic location. Operational costs include wages for darkroom attendants, Teaching Artists, and BIC and LFP staff. The goal of the BIC Community Darkroom is that its creation will allow people to take our classes and walk away with a strong foundational knowledge of both black and white and color darkroom photography.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

By investing in the BIC Community Darkroom Network, you are investing tangible storytelling tools into the hands of LA’s Black and Brown residents. LA is the home of the entertainment and creative industries, but the pipelines facilitating residents from Black neighborhoods into those industries are severely lacking. By investing in Black creativity, the entire city will benefit. Our short term goals are building the darkroom infrastructure and building up our base of vetted people who can operate and work within our darkroom. We plan on having mandatory courses to familiarize folks with our darkoom that will result in a membership card for darkroom access. People that are taking our photo courses will be participating in building an archive of LA, telling the story of the city through the lens of diverse storytellers. In the long term, we hope to inspire folks to become more confident in their photography work and encourage more people to create their own community darkrooms.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Born out of the racial uprising in 2020 when we were seeing massive amounts of Black pain depicted by white journalists and photographers, Black Image Center seeks to equip Black people with the skills to share our own diverse narratives. For too long, the stories of Black people have been portrayed through the lens of non-Black image-makers. We are working towards a shift in this dynamic, the construction of a functional darkroom is one milestone of success toward this vision. The BIC Community Darkroom alleviates financial barriers by providing affordable darkroom time, along with addressing the issue around the ownership of Black narratives by supplying tools and space for Black people to be in control. To measure the success of our collaborative portion of the project with Las Fotos Project, we will be creating pre and post survey tools to measure the impact of the curriculum, as well as impact and satisfaction surveys for those who access our dark rooms.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 30

Indirect Impact: 4,500

Describe the specific role of the partner organization(s) in the project, program, or initiative.

Las Fotos Project will act as both thought partners in the creation of workshop curriculum and community use business model, and support the piloting and evaluation of these models. Las Fotos Project is also nearing the completion of their darkroom, and will be available for troubleshooting and resource sharing as the Black Image Center darkroom is being constructed.