A Word From the Founder

Our Lab

On June 7th we will open at our new home on 130 South 17th street. This upgrade and expansion is the summation of two and a half decades of service to the local community. And it is the foundation for the next quarter century of doing great work together.

There are many reasons that companies move. In our case, we sought to enhance the harmony between the commercial and community parts of our mission. When our business does well, we can do good, like sponsor art shows, elevate emerging artists and artistic voices, provide lab scholarships, connect the community in our physical space and online, and bring convenient access to learning and to programs. This new space allows us to build this vision, and so much of this we will co-create!  

We want you to know that when you support our business as a customer, a portion of revenues goes right back to support the community. All this will be on full display (in every sense), in our historic building designed 134 years ago by renowned Philly architect Frank Furness. The building possesses character, calm, and good karma. And it's also so cool. We hope you’ll enjoy just being present in the space. You’re welcome to drop by any time, to meet a friend, to sit in the gallery, to work on a photo project, to connect and disconnect, and to find delight. 

This community is in our DNA. We started in 1997 in a tiny hole-in-the-wall store on 15th and Moravian streets to sell used student film cameras. It was a one person show at the start but we quickly evolved into a great photo lab, with many friends in the community and more than 400 artists and students who have worked with us since. In 2007 we opened Yo Darkroom on 23rd and Arch streets as a community darkroom and gallery. It was very successful, although a bit early.

In these 25 years we had some good years and some that were really impossibly tough, like when film went out of style and digital wasn't yet understood by anyone (and also looked crappy). Or when the iPhone changed picture taking and sharing forever and made us all addicted to Instagram. Back then, thousands of photo labs around the country, and most in Philly, went bust, but we leaned into the community and kept investing our business and it got us through.  We’re so glad that digital is awesome, and that iPhones take amazing pictures and that film photography is thriving. Why choose when you can have all three! You'll find them all represented in our new space. 

We won't have every last thing that we intend to do set up ready to share on June 7th, which is a great metaphor for everything in life. The fun is in building and getting better. We are excited to have you stop by and say hello.

Ravid Butz, founder.

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  • Wendy G - July 28, 2021

    Congratulations on this next new move! I remember the place on the corner of 15th and Moravian as well as the place on 20th (I think?) with the B&W film machine that you kept alive and working until it said no more!

    I keep saying I’m going to throw some film in one of my cameras sometime so when I do I’m happy to know that I can still bring it to you. xo

  • Stuart Winneg - July 28, 2021

    Congratulations Ravid!!! It is so great to see your company expanding and thriving. Good luck, Mazel Tov . Take care. Stuart W. PS. I live in California, going on 6 years.

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