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When the iPhone debuted in 2007, Carol Golemboski began to worry. With high-powered digital cameras suddenly filling everyone’s pockets, the professor of photography at the University of Colorado Denver noticed fewer students signing up for darkroom classes—her specialty—and she feared for film’s future. But surprisingly, there’s been a resurgence of student interest in the ultimate “latergram” in recent years, as film-focused shutterbugs look to stand out from the digital hordes. “The darkroom is starting to become cool again,” Golemboski says. “Part of it is that there’s still a kind of wonder and element of chance when you’re working with film.”
Perhaps it isn’t a surprise, then, that Denver’s premier destination for analog photography is about to start a second life of its own. This summer, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) is opening a nearly 4,000-square-foot headquarters in Capitol Hill that will house a classroom, two gallery spaces, a storage facility for the nonprofit’s prized pieces, and—most enticingly for photographic film fans—a darkroom that improves upon CPAC’s old one with ADA-accessible machines, more room for more people, and enlarged chemical baths that allow photogs to develop bigger prints. “We also offer [paid] classes and tutoring,” says CPAC executive director Samantha Johnston. “Being our 60th anniversary and moving into this new building, this is a big year for us.”
Founded in 1963, CPAC is best known for its permanent collection of more than 800 prints by such lens-toting luminaries as Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham—as well as local professionals including Golemboski. Despite its longevity, the nonprofit has, at times, struggled with funding and been forced to endure a nomadic existence; the organization has operated gallery and classroom spaces in City Park West, Belmar, Highland, Lakewood, and, most recently, the Golden Triangle. But thanks to expanded membership and fundraising under Johnston, who became executive director in 2015, the new location at 1200 Lincoln Street has a 10-year lease with an option to renew for 10 more. “That’s 20 years of stability for an organization that’s never had that,” says CPAC director of communications Megan Ross. Ross believes the spot, just blocks from downtown, will draw more walk-in visitors who can appreciate all the different types of photography CPAC champions.
That includes digital photography, but Johnston shares Golemboski’s excitement about film’s revival—which she likens to that of vinyl records—and her organization’s role in protecting and propagating the practice. After CPAC kicks off its new home’s opening with its annual Members’ Show starting July 11 (the reception is on July 15), CPAC will be able to provide a lens through which new generations of photographers—like Golemboski’s students—can experience the thrill of film, no matter what new fruit falls from Apple’s tree.