Night Blooms Darkroom & Bookstore gives film photographers their fix(er)
Photographers Ruby Hanson and Bryan Atkinson pair well.
Hanson, owner of Night Blooms Darkroom, Bookstore and Coffee, has made her business out of everything vintage. Atkinson has been photographing forgotten parts of Kansas City for nearly 20 years.
The two met during the years Hanson worked at YJ’s Snack Shack, not realizing they shared a common interest. Since Night Blooms opened in January 2016, they’ve been talking photography frequently enough that Hanson invited Atkinson to show his work.
Atkinson’s upcoming exhibition of 16 pieces is called “Lost Lands.” Hanson describes the work as mostly depicting viable but downtrodden buildings and sections of the city.
“The history of the city sits in there with them,” she says.
Atkinson says he wants to show a different perspective of Kansas City.
“There’s a tendency — and I’ve been guilty of it myself — of shooting the same subjects from the same vantage points, and you see the city presented in the same light over and over. In a sense, I’m trying to break that mold by providing alternative perspectives on parts of the city that aren’t photographed,” he explains.
His project of curating the city is, in a sense, similar to what Hanson has done with Night Blooms. She found a nearly century-old building on Southwest Boulevard and has curated every bit of what it contains.
She and co-owner Sam Jones rounded up a collection of books that feel essential to any book lover’s library: many of the classics of Western literature, glossy art books, philosophy, poetry and true crime, Hanson’s personal favorite.
The books, which are the first things a customer sees upon entering, make Night Blooms feel like a real used bookstore — the kind Kansas City used to have in abundance. But it doesn’t stop there.
The real jewel of the establishment is the public darkroom, the only one in the metro area.
“There was so much skepticism when I wanted to do this,” Hanson says. “I felt like I was going up against something. People were like, ‘Well, good luck.’ I had this feeling that if I built it, then it would work.”
Hanson’s hunch was right. She soon began receiving donations of enlargers and darkroom equipment, and still is.
“The community support behind Night Blooms was super surprising,” she says. “It’s been great.”
Both Atkinson and Hanson wish to give people space to appreciate the past in a way that is relevant now.
Atkinson, who’s in marketing at Kansas City Southern Railway, talks about his shoots around Independence Avenue, Truman Road and Van Brunt — all places where he spent a lot of time in his formative years.
“I have a body of work of where I grew up and still spend a lot of time today. And I have a lot of other pieces that I’ve taken outside of the northeast. When they blend together, they help tell this story that there’s this other side to Kansas City that’s been lost in time.”
He says his work closely identifies with an exhibition from the 1970s that became a sort of movement, called New Topographics, which recast landscape photography into something less pastoral and more stripped-down and urban.
Atkinson says it’s about documenting space that normally people take for granted.
At one time, people took film development and locally owned bookstores for granted as well. Hanson says that in addition to her dark room, which has space for three people to work at once and can be rented hourly or on a monthly basis, she’s also been developing negatives that people find in old boxes — so far only in black and white.
Night Blooms also offers workshops on how to use a dark room, as well as on alternative film-processing like pinhole cameras, which she sells ready-made, and cyanotype.
Atkinson’s aim for a timelessness in his work will be easily felt while it’s on exhibition in the timeless space of Night Blooms.
“Lost Lands” runs April 7-May 4 at Night Blooms, 529 Southwest Blvd. 6-9 p.m. First Friday. Regular hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
First Friday events
What: First Friday Art Show benefiting SevenDays: Make a Ripple, Change the World. 5-8 p.m. April 7.
18th and Vine Jazz District
What: First Friday with music, art, dancing, storytelling and more. 4-9 p.m. April 7. Free.
Info: Paseo Boulevard to Woodland Avenue. americanjazzmuseum.org, 816-474-8463
Beggars Table Church and Gallery
What: “Inhabitants” by Eric Tiffany. First Friday opening, 6-9 p.m. April 7.
Info: 2010 Baltimore. beggarstable.com
What: Recent paintings and works from the ’50s and ’60s by Wilbur Niewald. Opening reception, 6-9 p.m. April 7; runs through May 6.
Gallery hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-5 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 1600 Liberty. hawcontemporary.com, 816-842-5877
What: Human form show. Runs April 7-May 25. Also, “Bottomlands” by Russell Horton (through April 28).
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 1820 McGee. hilliardgallery.com, 816-561-2956
What: “Formation Equations” by Lois Van Liew. First Friday show, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. April 7; runs through April 28.
Gallery hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday.
Info: 1717 Walnut. 816-421-2111
Kansas City Public Library-Central Library
What: Art Starts at the Library. 5:30 p.m. April 7.
Info: 14 W. 10th. kclibrary.org, 816-701-3400
Kansas City Juke House
What: First Friday After Party featuring DJ Traci Steele and comic J.J. Williamson. 9:30 p.m. April 7. $10-$150.
Info: 1700 E. 18th. eventbrite.com/event/32982481490
KCAI Crossroads Gallery
What: “The Model’s Origin: Beyond the Core.” Through April 15.
Gallery hours: 6-9 p.m. First Friday, noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday.
Info: 1819 Grand. kcai.edu, 816-914-5394
The Late Show Gallery
What: “Work on Paper” by Maryanna Adelman. Opening reception, 6-10 p.m. April 7; runs through April.
Gallery hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
Info: 1600 Cherry. lateshowgallery.com, 816-516-6749
Leedy-Voulkos Art Center
What: Angie Piehl and “Over the City” by Noelle Stoffel. Through April 29.
Gallery hours: 6-9 p.m. First Friday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
Info: 2012 Baltimore. leedy-voulkos.com, 816-474-1919
Mid-America Arts Alliance
What: “Water Bank Boogie IV” by Susan Knight. Opening reception, 6-8 p.m. April 7; runs through June 9.
Info: 2018 Baltimore. maaa.org, 816-421-1388
Monarch Glass Studio
What: Heartland Glass Show. 6-9 p.m. April 7; runs through May 31.
Info: 1919 E. Truman. monarchglassstudio.com, 816-503-6326
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art
What: “Hall of Mirrors” by Peter Pincus and “Wall Works” by Jun Kaneko. First Friday public reception, 7-9 p.m. April 7.
Info: 2004 Baltimore. sherryleedy.com, 816-221-2626
Studios Inc. Exhibition Space
What: “Unapologetic” by Hyeyoung Shin. Through April 14.
Gallery hours: 6-9 p.m. First Friday, 10 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 1708 Campbell. thestudiosinc.org, 816-994-7134
Todd Weiner Gallery
What: “The Vortex Trinity” by Miguel Rivera, Jim Sajovic and Hugh Merrill. Runs April 7-May 27.
Gallery hours: 5-9 p.m. First Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.
Info: 115 W. 18th. toddweinergallery.com, 816-984-8538
Uptown Arts Bar
What: “The Fragility of Relationships” First Friday Play Reading. Potluck Productions. 8 p.m. April 7. $5.
Info: 3611 Broadway. uptownartsbar.com, 816-960-4611
Vulpes Bastille Studios
What: “Wounded Nature” group show. Opening reception, 6-9 p.m. April 7; runs through April 21.
Gallery hours: First Friday 6-9 p.m. and by appointment.
Info: 1737 Locust. vulpesbastille.com
Dan Kelly, email@example.com