After operating on Minneapolis’ North Side for ten years, the Mpls Photo Center, a community darkroom and studio for photographers, has crossed the river into Northeast.
Photographer Jeffrey Harrington bought the Mpls Photo Center from founders Orin and Abby Rutchick in November 2015. At the time, the center had operated for seven years in an upper floor of the Northwind Lofts at 24th Avenue and 2nd Street North as a gathering place for photographers, students, darkroom devotees and professionals working with digital and film photography. Harrington continued the photography programs begun by the couple he describes as “visionaries,” and increased membership and the frequency of exhibitions.
On the Center’s website, Harrington lists his 30 years of experience as a fine art photographer, media producer, and leadership positions with Twin Cities-based Media Loft, Compass Media, BBDO Advertising, and Popular Front Digital. He was later an executive producer of film & video, events, and advertising.
Last fall, unable to reach a new lease agreement with Northwind, Harrington moved the business to a vine-covered commercial building at 1828 Jefferson Street NE, a block north of the Casket Arts complex. About the Northside space, Harrington said, “that facility’s space and aesthetics served our needs and functions well. But it was difficult to find, and difficult to access. We lost a lot of patrons and members because of the challenging locale.” He said he had always been interested in Northeast as a “footprint” for the center’s headquarters, and had spent time looking at the Thorp Building before settling on the current location.
Harrington listed the services the center provides to both amateur and professional photographers, videographers, and filmmakers: black and white chemical darkrooms, color digital finishing labs, professional photo and video studio rentals, large-format printing, exhibition space, professional consultation, and classes in more than 25 subjects. The digital lab is stocked with scanners and iMacs with Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom installed. Memberships are available; non-members pay hourly fees.
On Friday, Jan. 25, the Center had its first opening in the new place for an exhibit featuring 20 black-and-white prints by local director and photographer Eric Young. The photos were shot with an iPhone 5 strapped to Young’s car door window, while Young drove along local highways. Harrington described the event as “our coming-out party.”
Harrington said the opening came at the end of a period that included a prolonged lawsuit filed by the estate of deceased Chicago photographer Vivian Maier over the use of her images in a previous show, and difficult lease negotiations at the center’s previous location.
The building is owned by Bill and Denise Carlson, longtime independent and commercial filmmakers, and the space has been used for film and video production for more than 20 years. Although the transfer from the old building took six weeks, Harrington called the new space “move-in ready” for most of the center’s key functions, and said, “We were technically operational within the first few days, conducting classes and renting studios.“ He and his staff members Taylor Selsback and Michael Schwartz, with the help of volunteers, hope to update the website, improve the class offerings, and increase membership now that they’ve finished setting up shop.
Harrington thought the move might cause a loss in membership, but said that there’s already been a modest increase. He added, “This represents a bit of a rebirth for us in a very positive environment and neighborhood with a lively arts focus, and we hope to help drive this entire zone to an even better place. Our intent is to be the place where photography lives in the Twin Cities. We make more sense over here!”
More at www.mplsphotocenter.com.
Below: Eric Young’s black-and-white photos comprised the first new exhibit at 1828 Jefferson St. NE (building photo from fall 2018). Young with Michael Schwartz and Taylor Selsback. Selsback and Mpls Photo Center owner Jeffrey Harrington put up the exhibit. One of the editing classrooms. Folks who attended the January 25 opening. (Photos by Mark Peterson)