The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Updated photo lab nears completion

At the heart of the Art ‘ Design Center one afternoon, the grounds were filled with students relaxing between classes while Mahshid Ehteshami was busy measuring the dirt-covered walkway in front of the new photography lab. Ehteshami is an architect with Harley Ellis Devereaux, the company that renovated the new photography lab and its two adjoining classrooms and studio space. According to Ehteshami, the walkway will become a brick and concrete courtyard. Although the date of project completion is tentative, it could not come soon enough for Chuck Przelomiec.

Przelomiec oversees the new photography lab, which opened at the start of the fall semester. He said when students come into the lab their shoes attract dirt from the walkway. This especially becomes a problem when water from the sprinklers overflows the tree planters and seep onto the walkway, creating a mud-like sediment. He said, “In a photography lab, the last thing you want is dirt.” The dirt brings in dust, which is a constant problem when producing negatives for print. He said, “We get enough dirt from our neighbors from the north – sculpture and ceramics.”

Przelomiec ran the photography lab when it was in the basement of Eucalyptus Hall and is an authority on all the ups and downs of its new design in the Art and Design Center. Outside of the lab it was calm and quiet, but inside it was teeming with student photographers processing film and prints, checking out equipment from the backroom of the lab, where Przelomiec was located, and going about their business. He said the students probably do not recognize the flaws, since “they don’t have the context.”

Perhaps the most noticeable difference to the students between the old lab and the new one is that the old lab offered comfortable, voting-booth-like nooks in which students had their own semi-private spaces to make their prints. Now, there are some private rooms, but there is a significantly large space that houses a “gang darkroom,” which features a large basin in the middle for processing prints and can accommodate many students at once. Przelomiec pointed out the flaws in design with the individual, private darkrooms.

“The ceilings are arbitrary,” he said, demonstrating that the enlargers cannot extend fully to make full-sized prints because of the low ceilings.

Dr. Tokuroh Arimitsu, photography professor, did not recognize this restriction, but admits it is likely because he does not teach the applicable processes to print large format or mural-sized prints.

Another noticeable difference between the old and new space is the amount of storage space that was compromised. Przelomiec said they went from 300 lockers at their old location to just 14 at the new one. He said they have had to change their methods. Traditionally, students were required to bring their own chemicals, but since there is no longer room for students to store their things, he has had to provide the chemicals.

Referring to the lab’s new location, Arimitsu said, “This one is closer to the arts people where most of our students exist.”

He noted one major problem with the older location: He would get a lot of “late comers” (students who had to make the long trek from Eucalyptus Hall to the Art and Design Center) to his classes. He also believes the time-consuming distance between the two buildings kept many students from taking photography classes, because they might have feared they could be late to classes or just did not want to make the commute by foot. Arimitsu believes the new location, with its close proximity to most art students’ classes, has attracted students from the other disciplines within the college, such as graphic design and painting.

“This is the greatest improvement?we have new classrooms, better classrooms,” Arimitsu said.

Przelomiec said he believes the input given to the architects from him and Art Department Chair Edward Alfano was lost in translation. He added that bad communication was the largest culprit.

“They took our input, but all of the original people – the architects, the facilities planning manager and the overseer—all left, moved on,” he said. Everything they told the original architects was apparently not transmitted to the new architects.

Przelomiec has a list of things that will need to be fixed. The main room where students crop their photos with a sharp blade is poorly lit. The track lighting above creates shadows where students need light the most. Electrical outlets were placed too close to many of the basins in the private rooms, creating another potential hazard. The incoming water is too warm.

“The water temperature is 75 degrees. Ideally, it should be 68 degrees. But I suppose we could supplement with ice and extra things,” Przelomiec said.

He has been able to adjust and adapt to the new photography lab so far, but said it would be nice if all of their needs were met.

Some flaws in design have been fixed, such as the lighting in the hallway leading into the lab. The fluorescent lights in the hallway were set on a timer and would shut off too soon, so new external lighting had to be put in. Przelomiec said the vents and the air conditioning in the gang darkroom were originally routed incorrectly. They were eventually rerouted, but the new setup caused the large tubes to intake so much air at a time, it now creates a constant drone sound, which Przelomiec said can drive a person crazy after about 10 minutes.

Responding to the flaws in design, Arimitsu said those problems should be addressed, but realizes their problems are among a long list of others within the whole campus. Przelomiec also recognizes that most problems may not be fixed for a long time.

“There’s a finite budget and a finite calendar” with which to get things done, he said as he continued his steady pace of assisting students with the equipment.

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