What started as an idea by a college graduate, became a reality, and quickly grew into a pillar of New York’s film community. Rachel Jun, the founder of Gowanus DarkRoom, was looking for a space to print her pictures when she moved to the Big Apple. She couldn’t find what she was looking for, so she simply decided to create it.
Although easier said than done, Gowanus Darkroom grew organically, as a result of the burgeoning analog scene in New York. With workshops, classes, and the option to privately rent it, Gowanus Darkroom is thriving, and now celebrating its fifth anniversary. "When I opened the space five years ago, I thought it might not work, but the fact that film has gone up is great." she explains.
Beyond the shutter, Rachel views analog photography as a journey, with each step giving her a margin of creation. "What I like about it, is that it's a process: the handling of it, and the physicality of it." she says: "I like that it’s step-by-step, and everything is so controlled, and you can have a hand in every little aspect of it."
We talked to Rachel about the role of analog photography in closing the gender gap. For Rachel, the solution lies in today's youth: the younger generation that is now starting to explore film photography will play a big role in balancing out the gender inequalities still present in the industry.
Hello Rachel! We're thrilled to have you here at Lomograp+hy. Since the early days of photography history, women have had an active role in pioneering the medium. However, despite this, it is no secret that it is still a male-dominated world in the arts and photography. Have you ever experienced gender inequality in your respective field?
Photography is interesting because it’s mainly man-dominated. Everyone I’m talking to is generally always men. So that is very interesting. I do think it’s changing as more young people are learning about film photography right now, and it evens the board. Outside of that in general, I do get a lot of surprised people, when they learn that I’m the owner. It happens on a daily basis It’s never aggressive, it’s just subtle things like that, that I've definitely noticed.
In previous years, there has already been a rise of prominent women and feminist movements not only in photography but in the art world, in general. In what ways do you think we could continue moving forward and away from gender inequality within the art world?
People being interested in more art by women is great, I see that everywhere, I love that. Putting women on the same table as men, to have everyone together.
In your own opinion, how does (analogue) photography liberate women photographers?
Any kind of art can do that. When a woman is making art, or if a woman is a subject of an art piece, I see that as a feminist. Being in a picture can be part of the process. Photography is interesting and weird in the sense that there’s so much objectification in it. But most of the time the subject can turn the gaze back to the camera, and that can be a statement as well. Like any medium, it can be used in that way.
Among your creative endeavors, which one is the most meaningful to you?
The darkroom I guess. The space is changing all the time, new equipment will come, new circumstances will arise, someone will come and request a piece of equipment we have to make work for them. I think that type of puzzle-solving around here, and making everything fit and work and run smoothly on. It’s something I focus on a lot, and I’m proud.
What message do you want your photography/art/work leave the younger generation of female artists/photographers/creatives?
The younger generation, I can completely understand why they’re fascinated by this medium. You can explore your creative eye, and see the world a little differently.
For young people to start seeing that way, through a film camera which slows you down, that makes you pause, that's important.
By continuing to learn and further themselves as photographers and not giving up because of some stereotypes or stigma, not letting that stop them, they can contribute to close an existing gap. If it’s something they like and are passionate about they should continue to keep pushing.
Pushing younger kids, even to be interested in this is something I'm adamant of. It's important to see photography as more than digital. I’m a very big proponent of people starting film photography. It can be very intimidating for people to be getting into because there is so much information out there, but young people too are starting to revive it for even younger generations.
To learn more about Gowanus Darkroom, head over to their website .