Over 18 years ago, Steve Berkowitz built a darkroom on the 14th floor of 1616 Walnut St. Since then, he has redesigned the photography curriculum, designed the digital photography program for Tyler and Center City, and watched numerous students walk in and out of his lab. Now, with the recent Temple Center City campus move, his darkroom will permanently close its doors — leaving students without a place to work.
The lease runs out on the old 1616 building on Dec. 15, forcing the lock down of the lab on Dec.5.
According to memos sent to faculty, a new lab was not built in the new TUCC because it was not cost effective to construct an adequate ventilation system that would adhere to EPA regulations. University News and Media relations said that the University did not want to take away from classroom space and a dark room would have done that.
“You can’t just amputate a program without approval of the Course & Curriculum Committee, and they need a pedagogical reason, not one based solely on physical accommodations,” said Berkowitz.
He had been planning with the 1515 architects when he was informed of the decision to exclude the lab after the new lease was signed.
Berkowitz called the administration’s decision to omit the lab “heartbreaking.”
With no photography labs for student use after the end of this semester, many students are scrambling for possible alternatives.
“We’ve built a photo community. Everyone who walks through the doors is family,” said Berkowitz.
Tara Ehling, a senior Arts and Photography major, said there are other labs within Temple, but they are only for a specific group of students. The photography lab in Annenberg Hall is only available to photojournalism students, and the lab on the Tyler Campus is only available to full-time Tyler students who take all of their classes on that campus.
Three students, Ehling, Julianne Snyder, and Leyla Safvi, are planning a protest and passing around a petition against the University’s plans to not replace the photo lab. These three students are inviting anyone, not just art students, to join the cause. A meeting is scheduled at 311 Anderson Hall, on Friday, Oct. 26 at 11:45 a.m.
Ehling said they then plan to walk from Anderson Hall, across the Bell Tower area, to Sullivan Hall, and personally deliver a signed petition to President Adamany’s office.
“They wouldn’t take the computer lab away from Computer Information Sciences students, so why would they take a photography lab away from Art students,” explained Ehling.
Although Ehling is photography major and will be graduating in the spring with a diploma from the Tyler School of Art, she is also minoring in Anthropology. With her minor, she takes courses at Main campus, which means that she is not considered a Tyler student and will not be able to use their photo labs.
Ehling said the closing of the lab would have stopped her from graduating if not for the help of teachers in the program.
Besides affecting full-time art students, this is also greatly affecting other Temple students. Jennifer Crewalk, an employee at Temple University Children’s Hospital, has been taking photography courses as a non-matriculated student. She said that with the closing of this lab, she will no longer be able to take photography classes.
Yema Ferreira, a lab monitor, said that she doesn’t understand why the University would close a lab and not reopen a new one anywhere within the campus. She said that a large University, such as Temple, would be the last place to completely move from original photography production methods to strictly new technology methods, as will be done in the digital lab.
Ehling and Ferreira said the University never officially told students about the lab closing. Students only heard about it by word-of-mouth, from their professors and other students.
A new Mac lab was built in the 1515 building for digital photography, because according to the administration, digital is quickly replacing wet photography.
“The two are completely different. It’s all about the finished print, all about the process. Both are important, but neither replaces the other,” said Berkowitz. “The product is totally different. Traditional photo is silver, processed in chemicals and digital is ink sprayed on paper. The process is totally different. Artists need to get their hands dirty when making work. It is a physical endeavor.”
Berkowitz also pointed out that a wet lab is cheaper to construct and easier to maintain than a digital lab.
“An enlarger costs less than a computer and a printer. Enlargers last about 20 years, computers have to be replaced every three or four years. Computer software has to be upgraded every year, whereas enlargers do not. Lab fees are about the same for chemical and digital and cover all general operating expenses.”
Ferreira also stated that the University is spending millions of dollars to bring in more and more students by building new dormitories and renovating the Student Center. She is concerned that many students will be turned away from the University because of the lack of a wet lab.