Those who only know the experience of cameras with memory cards and cellphones with auto-focus will be in for a revelation.

"You can learn what F-stop and aperture mean, how you can control your image," Shay said. "I am not in any way knocking cellphone images, which you can share and communicate with people. But going back to film is so exciting. With film, a photographer controls every aspect — choosing shutter speed, the paper you print on. And there is the physical connection. There's a negative you can hold."

Instead of color-correcting or otherwise editing photos with the click of a mouse, darkroom users make their choices the same way photographers have been doing since the 19th century, painstakingly developing an image onto paper.

And instead of clicking "Print" and seeing any number of the exact same images spit out of the printer, the quality of each individually processed photo is determined by the photographer.

"Digital prints can be reproduced to infinity," said Ben Graham-Putter, 24, co-founder of the BrickHaus Art Space. "A print made in a darkroom is a one-of-a-kind object. People are going to feel excited about learning a new skill that is so hands-on, that requires you to leave the comfort of one's own butt in a chair."

The artistic value of a black-and-white image created in a darkroom can be considerable, which is why the medium continues to attract photographers even in a color-saturated world.

"If you don't pay attention to fine qualities of tone, it doesn't make sense to be in the darkroom," Galluzzo said. "The thing with the silver gelatin process is that you can get the truest, deepest black on the planet. No digital camera can produce that resolution. You could probably do some of what I do digitally, but the process is what I like. In a darkroom, you always have a little human error. I enjoy some of the imperfections."

Given how some young people who grew up with only compact discs and then MP3s are buying vinyl records again, it's not a stretch to imagine they will become interested in exploring the world of traditional black-and-white photography, too. The efforts at Brickhaus and Current Space should help encourage any such interest.

"Setting up a darkroom takes plumbing, electrics and all that," Silverman said. "Having a community darkroom with a sink at hand — that's really fantastic. But if it's too expensive for people, it's not going to work."

Rental fees of between $10 and $20 an hour are common at community darkrooms, which also typically offer monthly rentals. Prices have not been set for either the Current Space or Brickhaus venues, but Graham-Putter agrees with Silverman. "The goal is for this to be sustainable, but also accessible," he said.

Like the folks at Brickhaus, Shay and Galluzzo see a need that needs filling.

"More photographers are going to be coming out of the woodwork with darkrooms coming back," Shay said. "Maybe 2013 is the time for photographers in Baltimore."

tim.smith@baltsun.com

  • Text NIGHTLIFE to 70701 to sign up for Baltimore Sun nightlife and music text alerts