This week Newspace Center for Photography shuttered its doors after almost 15 years of operation. If you had never heard of it, it was a rental darkroom, studio, digital lab, and fine art gallery in Southeast Portland right off of Hawthorne Boulevard. It was possibly the only gallery in Portland that a person could wander into to peruse a photo gallery seven days a week without appointment. For a few dollars anyone off of the street could come in and develop a roll of film that they had shot, and look at great photography on the gallery walls while it was drying . For just a few more dollars, one could use the gang darkroom to print, which was reminiscent of a small university darkroom from the 1990s or early 2000s. Eventually, for an hourly charge that was about 1/5th of what any other facility charged, one could scan or import, edit, and print archival photographs on state of the art equipment. Even further along, some of the smartest and most dedicated photo educators in Portland taught classes for pennies on any topic even remotely photo related. The space was manned on the front lines by volunteers like myself, and organized and driven by a staff of only three full-time employees at any given time. They handled the business, developed grants, curated the shows, orchestrated the curriculum, arranged speakers,maintained the facility, and did the books.
I volunteered at Newspace for over 13 years. Almost every photograph I have made in that time was made at Newspace: either in the studio, the darkroom, or the digital lab. And yesterday it closed. I’m a bit flabbergasted. I’m not one that builds community easily, but my commitments and allegiances run deep. I believed in Newspace and thought it was immortal, essential, and untouchable. And the hole that it will leave in my heart, but more importantly the art scene in our city and our arts education community is enormous.
There will be passionate photographers scrambling to organize something even close to what Newspace was over the next coming months and years. Listen to them. Help them. Donate to them and steer people who donate to them.
This can’t continue, Portland. All of our hearts are breaking. We need the things that sustain our art and our souls even if they don’t have the best business plans.
Farewell old friend, thanks for the lingering scent of acetic acid on my fingers, the community you introduced to me, and the knowledge you imparted.