Vintage North Park camera shop’s new owners celebrate resurgence of old-school film photography

Vintage North Park camera shop’s new owners celebrate resurgence of old-school film photography

Like quite a few pictures buffs, Rob Cowan purchased a digital camera as before long as they arrived out a couple decades in the past. He loved its instantaneous benefits and the flexibility it gave him to shoot endless pictures right until he accomplished the excellent shot.

Then about 6 yrs back, the 39-calendar year-aged San Diego resident bought bored with digital photography for the quite similar causes. Where was the problem, the assumed approach and the artistry? So he returned to conventional film photography and never ever looked again.

“It has its own sensation,” he reported. “It’s tangible. You can hold on to it and see it in front of your eyes.”

Cowan is not alone. Above the earlier 5 many years, tens of millions of Americans have re-embraced or newly learned the old-school artwork of film images. Product sales of Kodak roll film doubled from 2014 to 2019 and the benefit of made use of film cameras has skyrocketed. Now Cowan and his spouse and company associate, Caitie Boreliz, are hoping to feed that growing group with their recently expanded North Park business enterprise, Camera Exposure & Safelight Labs.

Camera Exposure & Safelight Labs co-owner Rob Cowan, left, stands in the North Park store

Digicam Publicity & Safelight Labs co-operator Rob Cowan, still left, stands in the store although sales associate Diego Jimenez allows consumer Tobi Gary, at correct.

(John Gastaldo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The busy shop at Adams Avenue and Oregon Road sells film, cameras, lenses, chargers, enlargers, flash attachments and cases. It also features film building products and services and digital camera repairs. But the couple’s aspiration for their business enterprise won’t be recognized right up until upcoming summer season, when they system to open a do-it-your self group darkroom and workshop, photography studio and public gallery wherever aspiring film photographers can take lessons, discover lab strategies and have their individual exhibitions.

“We want to be an integral component of the local community, the art group, the film neighborhood, the images community. It doesn’t make any difference what you shoot, what your cup of tea is, we want to be in this article to aid artists, nevertheless they’re going to generate their artwork,” Cowan mentioned.

On Tuesday afternoon, the store was bustling with buyers ranging in age from their 20s to their 60s procuring for cameras and lenses. Boreliz stated she has had dad and mom arrive in with their 11- and 12-yr-previous youngsters to buy them their initial movie digital camera. Other buyers dusted off their aged 35 mm cameras throughout the pandemic and started off shooting once more to fill their solitary time. And another phase of buyers are curious younger individuals in their 20s and 30s who not too long ago inherited their grandparents aged cameras and have hardly ever explored film images in advance of.

“The more youthful generation grew up with iPhones and the World wide web. They’re looking for one thing various, with a far more classic really feel. They live in this kind of a rapidly-paced surroundings. This is a way to gradual them down,” Cowan explained.

Cowan and Boreliz met 10 several years ago even though doing the job collectively at a Starbucks in Northern California. 6 years ago, they moved to San Diego, which was about the exact time Cowan rediscovered movie. He prefers to shoot only in black and white. As his passion grew, he asked Boreliz to assistance his dream of opening a community pictures shop and darkroom, as there are only a handful of sites in town where by photographers can produce their personal film.

With her support, Cowan introduced Safelight Labs in their San Diego apartment in 2018. A safe and sound mild is the pink bulb made use of in darkrooms that won’t expose undeveloped film. A 12 months later on, he opened a retail area, darkroom and gallery in downtown San Diego. Then in March 2020 the pandemic strike, forcing him to close the retail and gallery side of the small business and transition to no-contact producing solutions.

Rob Cowan displays the camera tattoos on the fingers of his left hand.

Camera Publicity and Safelight Labs co-owner Rob Cowan shows off the digicam tattoos that reflect his adore for photography. From still left they depict a speed-graphic, a rangefinder, a solitary-lens-reflex and a stage-and-shoot digicam.

(John Gastaldo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Then in the summer season of 2020, Cowan begun accomplishing movie processing for Kenneth Kahan, the longtime operator of the Camera Exposure shop at 2701-03 Adams Ave. Kahan bought the shop in 2008 from its original owner, who opened the doorways in 1988. Kahan said when he took about the company 13 decades in the past, electronic images experienced by now wiped out a great deal of the film camera organization. But finally product sales began creeping back up.

“I guess it was about five or 6 decades back that I observed film pictures begun getting off again. I’d have 300 cameras in here all set for repairs,” Kahan said.

Then in tumble 2020, Kahan resolved to retire and questioned Cowan and Boreliz if they would look at getting over the shop’s lease. Cowan said it was not a tricky conclusion. The 3,000-square-foot 1920s-period setting up has a 33-calendar year history as a camera shop, lots of space for all of their programs and the pedestrian-helpful community has lots of foot site visitors.

A drawer filled with roll film for sale at Camera Exposure & Safelight Labs in North Park.

A drawer filled with roll movie for sale at Camera Publicity & Safelight Labs in North Park.

(John Gastaldo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

A couple months in the past they renovated and reopened the corner house as their new Digicam Publicity retail, repair service and development solutions lab. In the coming months, they will relaunch Safelight Labs with a big darkroom and workshop area for do-it-oneself developing and classes. And by upcoming summer they hope to open up a studio and gallery where Cowan mentioned he hopes to give quite a few area photographers their initially public demonstrates.

Organization has been so great in modern months that Cowan and Boreliz have hired quite a few workers, which include Caiti Borruso, who operates the producing lab, and Kahan, who came out of retirement to assistance with digicam repairs. Their most significant obstacle these days is an industrywide shortage of coloration movie.

Boreliz, who operates the retail side of the company, said she is however rather new to film photography herself, but she loves how it has improved her standpoint on life.

“There’s just anything I love about the procedure of pictures, wherever you consider your time to body the shot and aim on what you’re doing. It is a full expertise,” she explained. “And I also appreciate how images brings men and women together.”

Camera Exposure & Safelight Labs staff Rob Cowan, Caitie Boreliz, Caiti Borruso and Diego Jimenez.

Camera Exposure & Safelight Labs co-owner Rob Cowan and Caitie Boreliz, remaining, with lab manager Caiti Borruso and income affiliate/lab tech Diego Jimenez exterior the North Park retail store.

(John Gastaldo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)