A new home for Twin Cities photographers

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Mpls Photo Center’s main studio space

If you’re not into photography, you probably missed a major change that happened last year in the local scene. The Minnesota Center for Photography, longtime home to shutterbugs, closed its doors. And one month later the Mpls Photo Center opened new ones.

Same people under a slightly different name? Not hardly. While the Minnesota Center for Photography was a non-profit that relied on grant support, the Mpls Photo Center is the brainchild of Orin Rutchick, and is a private, for-profit venture. Yet the two organizations’ missions are quite similar: to nurture, educate and strengthen the local photography scene.

Rutchick hit upon his idea in 2007, when the five other photographers sharing his lease decided the expenses weren’t worth the hassle. Rutchick realized he could either go back to printing out of his home, or he could hold on to the warehouse space in Northeast Minneapolis, and create something much bigger. At the time the Minnesota Center for Photography was still in operation, but its primary function was as a gallery, with studio time and classes relegated to evenings. Rutchick wanted to create a hangout that was available 24/7, where photographers could feel at home, and be with peers.

orin.jpg“What’s happened now is digital has created these silos where you capture your image, you go back to your computer, you process your image and you print it on your digital printer. And so there isn’t a lot of opportunity for interaction. And that’s really one of the reasons for the center too is to at least bring people with a common interest together.”

Mpls Photo Center’s founder Orin Rutchick

The Mpls Photo Center boasts a large studio, classrooms, a digital print lab, two darkrooms, lockers, a kitchen and a lounge. Membership to the MPC starts at $12 a month, and runs on up to $235 a month, depending on the level of access a photographer wants.

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Mpls Photo Center’s digital print lab

Rutchick compares the current world of photography to the Wild West. It’s a world in which talented wedding photographers are losing clients to Uncle Bill and his Canon Powershot.

I think with the advent of the digital camera in the last three to five years, and the quality of the images that come from it, most anybody can take a reasonably good photograph. Of course there’s a difference between “taking” a photograph and “making” a photograph. That’s one of the things they lack – the understanding of making a photograph.

Rutchick says too many people are taking hundreds of pictures, and then just deleting the ones they don’t like, rather than thinking about the image they have in mind. While many love the ease that digital photography has given them, Rutchick believes film, and the discipline it inspired, served a purpose.

I really feel that people have abandoned film for the wrong reasons. We find that our younger members are interested in it because they’ve grown up in the digital world, and the idea of a print coming up in a developing tray is fascinating to them.

The whole idea of film is that even if you have a certain time down, and process, every print is different than the last. So each one is unique, whereas with digital files, everyone’s the same. While there’s a lot of craft in editing a fine digital photograph, you can’t really feel that accomplished as you can coming out of the darkroom with an analog print.

That’s why Rutchick is so proud of his two darkrooms. He compares their large sinks to family dinner tables, around which stories are swapped and ideas shared.

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One of two darkrooms at the MPC

Rutchick says he hopes to use the MPC to bridge the gap between the analog world and the digital one, by encouraging fans of both to mingle. Beyond that he says his goal is to raise the quality and understanding of photography in the region by giving people access to classes, tools, and a place to show their work.

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