The phone rang. It was the director of St. Mary’s Art Center in Virginia City, NV informing me that demolition of the darkroom was about to begin. She asked if I wanted to photograph it before it was gone. As a member of the board, I knew this was going to happen, but so soon? The window frames in that room were dry rotting and we had received a grant to replace them. Oliver Gagliani, a close associate of Ansel Adams, had built the darkroom against the windows so demolition was the only way to get them out.
I grabbed my large format and digital cameras and headed out the door. It was a 25 mile drive from Reno and I hoped I wasn’t too late. Emotion seized me as I drove remembering all the workshops I had taught there. They were summer workshops because there wasn’t heat in the building, and Erik and I were on break from our usual teaching load at the local community college. Erik Lauritzen and I taught The Nevada Landscape Photography Workshop focused on the surrounding countryside. The darkroom was on the first floor so it was cool, no air conditioning needed. Those were the good old days.
When I arrived, the crew had removed all the equipment and were waiting patiently for me to quickly get things photographed so that they could start. They didn’t realize I needed to set up all the equipment and pay careful attention to detail in order to show it just the way it was historically. I photographed the room from several angles thinking all the while that it was sad to be tearing out what could have been considered a historic site.