[rock the dub Interview]: YO! Darkroom

Here at rock the dub, we're not all about music and LOST: we dig the fine arts. Thing is, most of the opportunities seem to be so distant from my people (read: progressive, broke thinkers). Well, one opportunities was literally right under my nose. Well, in my past. I have a friend I went to high school with, someone I used to build with years gone. Her name is Sherry, and her resume is sharp: studied photography on many levels, and has taught in many fine institutions as well. Her latest venture is YO! Darkroom, a "photography community" deep in the heart of Philadelphia. From taking classes to using their facilities to copping cameras and film, among other things, this is a one-stop shop for all of your photo needs, especially if you are looking to further your craft in the Photo field. We rapped a bit on what YO! is about, where YO! is going, and how you can get invovled...

khal: What’s going on? First off, YO! Darkroom is such an interesting idea, but I’m surprised that in a city like Philly, which seems to have a solid art community, doesn’t have a photo community center like YO!. Can you explain where the idea for YO! came from?

Sherry: Hey! You’re right Philly does have a pretty solid art scene. With this new venue I’m most excited to bring the same attention that a lot of painters and sculptors get in the city to photographers at YO! The idea for creating a space like YO! stemmed from a real desire for a community darkroom in the city. In addition I want to take YO! further and offer a true photo venue that includes a gallery, classroom, studio and more -- a space where people of all levels and backgrounds can meet and learn more about what’s happening in the Philly art scene and photography in general.

khal: Do you see your location in Philly as a benefit? I mean, do you think you could essentially do the same thing in a city like Pittsburgh or Wilkes-Barre and get the same response/praise/etc.?

Sherry: I do see YO! as a creative benefit to the city in that we are designed for those who, for instance, want more than what their school offers, are intimidated by or can’t afford to take a class in photography elsewhere. Our organization is not a new idea, but was uniquely designed for a Philly crowd – in particular those who need a support system and want to make a direct difference in their own and each other’s lives.

khal: Was YO! something that caught on relatively quickly? I’d imagine many of the art student/college-crowd would be very interested, but are you seeing interest from all age-groups?

Sherry: YO!’s mission and word of our existence in Center City is spreading fast in many circles. So far I have noticed a super positive response from people ranging from students to seasoned fine artists who are interested in being mentored and mentoring others. There is a lot of diversity in the people who attend our gallery shows as well and that inevitably creates a unique dialogue between people of all ages and gives people a great chance to network.

khal: I personally know you’ve been involved in photography for years now, but can you break down your credentials, accomplishments, etc. for those who might be wondering “who is she to be giving me tips on photo”?

Sherry: It’s true, I have spent some years now involved in the arts working for creative non-profits, after school programs or teaching in schools. I received my BA and MFA in fine art photography and have spent over 5 years involved with higher education, teaching classes like digital and film photography, drawing and art appreciation. In addition to myself there are a number of local Adjunct Professors and photo professionals teaching our courses. Our guest lectures and professional workshops will be run by experienced local professionals who excel in their individual fields of photography.

khal: Is the geographical makeup of YO! artists predominately Philly-based, or are you getting heads from other cities/states exhibiting their work?

Sherry: There are currently shows in the works at YO! Gallery for fine art photographers from out of state (look for NYC photographer Jennifer Warren’s color Holga Panoramics in the Spring). I am definitely not opposed to receiving artists from other communities who are interested in our mission and appreciate the work that it being shown at YO! Gallery. YO! is a community based space and therefore open to all people willing to reach out and explore what’s going on in the contemporary art scene period. I do however lean towards supporting our local up-and-comers and long time professionals doing amazing work.

khal: In reading your MySpace blog, I was intrigued by the “Redroom, Redroom” installation coming up on the 17th of August. How often do you have installations of that size, and do you have to be “internationally known” to get your shine on?

Sherry: Scott Bickmore’s “Redroom/Redroom” is an interesting concept and a challenging experiment in psychology through light and mood. This is my first time installing a show based on photography that doesn’t actually include a single photograph. When Scott approached me with his idea to take the mood of the darkroom and turn it into something a bit more dark and unexpected without being literal about it, embraced the chance to make it work in our space. What I look for when someone approaches me with a show idea is a unique presentation and a concept with some depth and experimentation involved – what I am personally drawn to really does vary. If an artist has a long resume with a ton of references and no depth to their ideas or presentation I get bored easily and want to see something new. I am also interested in having collectors come to our shows and really get turned on to all types of work that’s being done in our city.

khal: One thing I found interesting is that, if you desired, you could opt to not be a member of YO!’s, but there are benefits to obtaining a membership. Do you see a lot of people opting to attend the classes/clubs/etc. for free?

Sherry: That is true, you don’t have to become a member to take our classes, but it’s recommended. We’ve had a number of people sign on to become members of YO! early and that has really helped with the production end of things. The membership is important because it brings you closer to the community through member shows and events and ultimately saves you money each time you join a class.

khal: YO! isn’t just classes and exhibitions though. I saw on phillyskyline.com that you can purchase cameras, film, prints, frames – it’s essentially a one-stop spot for all of your photo needs. Do you think there will ever be a situation where YO! grows into something bigger than what you already have established?

Sherry: I view YO! as a business that is truly unique in the city, one that will grow and change with the needs of our members and users. If our members want hoagies, coffee or live music we’ll take those suggestions as they come – for now we offer our community an all purpose photography space to meet people, learn and work in. There’s always room to grow, especially if the population demands it.

khal: With all of this stuff going on, how big is the YO! staff?

Sherry: Right now I am the one working full time to keep YO! running, however there are over 20 people on board as teachers, darkroom monitors, volunteers, gallery sitters and marketing/PR people who are hard working and enthusiastic about our mission – and are also responsible for our success.

khal: What’s going on in the near future with YO!? Can you tell us any forthcoming artist installations, new classes, etc., that are going to be offered to the public?

Sherry: There is so much going on in the near future at YO! Soon on our website you’ll find I have arranged for local professionals to come speak about subjects like photographing your art, removing the blinders of habit, photographing in the digital age, self publishing and more. You’ll also find professional workshops on “Making a Living as a Photographer” (David Graham) and even one for “Dog Lovers on Location” (A. Celeste Hardester). I think it’s really important to reach out to many different types of creative minds and hopefully our lectures and classes will do that. As far as upcoming shows we have some excellent work going up this year and people can check out all of the updates on my blog and in the YO! Gallery section of http://www.yodarkroom.com/. (Our next show includes black + white work by local photographers Jaime Alvarez and Ryan Widger.)

khal: Now that the public has an idea of what YO! is all about, how can they get involved?

Sherry: The best way to get involved is to physically come to YO! Darkroom, meet with myself and staff members who can sign you up for events and answer your questions. Our hours cater to people who are in school and work during the day. BTW we’re open late most nights Wed-Sun until 11p by appt. Email any questions to sherry@yodarkroom.com.


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