The Viewfinder

Denver Darkroom founder, guru, and pied piper, Standish Lawder is familiar with the famous quote: "If you build it, they will come." He has lived the experience. Only his version goes: if you build it, they will come with drywall and plumbing, electrical wiring, paint and the know-how to remodel a former retail space into a photographer's dream studio, Library, and Darkroom. Oh, and "they" didn't charge him a dime. In face, they even asked influenctial friends for money. Influential friends such as yoko ono, who recently sent a check for $20,000 to help see the project through to completion.

November 2002

“I don’t get it – it has a life of it’s own,” says Lawder. “So many people have volunteered. Everybody’s participating in the building of it. Everybody feels a part of it. It’s community. That’s the best word for it.”

As for the $20,000 from Ono, Lawder keeps the cashed check laminated and with him, probably, as a reminder that miracles really do happen.

“It was totally unanticipated. I didn’t request it,” says Lawder, admiring the plastic-coated check with the famous autograph. As it turns out, one of his students is the daughter of the famous art diva. When Denver resident Kyoko Cox was back in New York she mentioned the project to her mother, who thought it worthy of her financial support and wrote a check on the spot.

What began in 1996 as a basic photo class run out of Lawder’s rented studio/living space on Larimer and 26th streets has over the years attracted more than 3,000 photography enthusiasts from beginners to professionals. Students and teachers alike echo Lawder’s sentiment that the Darkroom is a community, even a family, and that’s what keeps them coming back.