The Photo Palace Bus, a mobile darkroom and showcase for film photography, will be spreading analogue love all over the place but it needs your help to get the trip started.
It all started in the early 1990’s as an idea to capture portraits of America but with the advent of digital photography, Anoton Orlov decided his traveling darkroom, called The Photo Palace Bus, could serve a higher purpose: to educate and spread the knowledge of traditional and silver based darkroom techniques. Now, he and co-creator Ryan Kalem need your help to spread the analogue love.
Orlov and Kalem, both graduates of San Jose State’s photography program, are trying to raise $16,000 by February 1, 2012 so they can take their 1978 vintage yellow school bus on the road. Visit their kickstarter site to support them. If they don’t reach their goal by February 1, they get zero dollars, so it’s important to get your pledge in before the deadline. Here’s a sketch of what the bus will look like when finished.
The two main goals for The Photo Palace Bus, according to kickstarter are:
• The Photo Palace will provide traditional photographic education and hands-on experience opportunities in every corner of the country. The goal is to preserve the traditions of analog photography.
• Using the north-light studio and incorporating street photography we will create a 10.000-negative portrait series about New Americana. From pop to fringe – all aspects of culture will be addressed via portraits accompanied by narration and quotes.
Impromptu and scheduled art exhibits; free lectures, demonstrations and workshops will be the core of The Photo Palace’s curriculum. Topics such as photo history, gelatin, silver and alternative printing techniques as well as studio and location photo techniques for portraiture and still life photography are just some of the subjects that will be covered.
The vintage yellow school bus will be equipped with darkroom equipment, a viewing area, a fold-out North-Light studio which can be installed on either side of the bus and living quarters on an upper-level, which will be created by installing the bodies of two VW buses on the roof of the school bus. Below are a few Polaroids taken the day the photographers purchased the bus.
Orlov and Kalem are following in the footsteps of some of the pioneers of the trade, most of which had no choice other than to have all their materials on-hand at all times. Early photo techniques, like wet-plate collodion, depended on having a darkroom set-up within feet of the place the photo was taken.
Even after the invention of dry film, photographers continued the tradition of setting up darkrooms in the field so they could be fully immersed and integrated with their projects.
Anton Orlov moved to California from Moscow when he was 17. His passion for photography has taken him to Central America, Asia, and all across the continental US. He operates a darkroom facility in San Diego where he offers workspace to photographers and private lessons in analogue photography. His favorite camera is the Rolliflex TLR. Here are some examples of his work, which are being offered as thank you gifts for certain levels of pledging via the kickstarter site:
Ryan Kalem works in primarily large-format photography. This format forces him to slow down the process and really think about all elements of the photo. During The Photo Palace’s tour, he will take up permanent residence in the bus, which will give him a deeper understanding of the area and people he is capturing. This is one of his gelatin silver prints that’s also being offered as a thank you gift:
You can follow the adventures of the construction of the project at The Photo Palace blog. Here is their vision for the interior of the bus:
By becoming a backer you’re not only supporting The Photo Palace financially, you’re also helping to plan the route! Orlov and Kalem state that your pledge ensures that the vintage bus will be rolling into your town or wherever you want them to go. I don’t know about you but personally, I’ll be super-excited to meet the photographers and see the bus first hand when they roll into my little corner of the world.