Forging a Community

We look back at the Penumbra Foundation Internship Program in partnership with Fujifilm to hear from the interns and discover the role community plays in creating a positive learning environment

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/20 sec at F4, ISO 800

Penumbra Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in New York City that aims to nurture, inspire, and champion storytellers of photography.

With a focus on ‘handmade’ technologies, Penumbra Foundation operates a variety of programs to support youth engagement. Using facilities such as a traditional darkroom and tintype studio, the foundation teaches young artists about photography’s analog roots.

This aligns seamlessly with Fujfilm’s belief in the connection between art and community, from image making to output. Therefore, partnering on the Penumbra Internship Program made perfect sense – not least because of the passionate individuals behind the program.

“I do what I do because it’s important to me that spaces like this exist in the art world,” says Chloe Brover, education and membership coordinator at Penumbra Foundation and the Internship Program coordinator.

“In the photography world, environments can be a little competitive – but Penumbra Foundation as a community is interested in seeing what everyone else makes. We’re simply excited about photography and making art,” she continues.

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/20 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/20 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/20 sec at F4, ISO 800

Chloe, like many others who work there, is testament to Penumbra Foundation’s welcoming atmosphere. A New York City-based photographer, she first found the organization when in high school, and began volunteering there. Even after leaving for college, she still gravitated back to the foundation where she laid down her roots.

“I knew they had this amazing community and programs, and wanted to keep getting involved there. So, I continued volunteering and eventually began interning – then kind of found a home.”

Such deeply established connections are what form the basis of Penumbra Foundation’s strong core, with many artists and residents going on to teach classes, exhibit work, or give talks at the foundation.

Maintaining this self-perpetuating cycle of inspiration is the motivation at the heart of the Internship Program.

Created in partnership with Fujifilm, this new program offered four interns the opportunity to learn new artistic and professional skills through mentorships with established artists, while immersing themselves in Penumbra Foundation’s supportive photographic community.

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 25600

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/100 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 25600

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 25600

Ruby Gauchman

Ruby is an artist based in New York City, who uses her talent to question the elements that define her role in life. Exploring themes like familial bonds, personal identity, and the impact of physical space, she sees photography and art as a space for placing knowledge within a larger tapestry of information.

Ruby was mentored by photographer and educator Jenia Fridlyand. Splitting her time between Penumbra Foundation’s facilities and Jenia’s studio north of New York City, she assisted with everything from archiving to darkroom printing.

“Working alongside an artist as passionate and creative as Jenia has opened my eyes to the many facets of image making I was not as aware of going into this opportunity,” Ruby professes.

“Seeing her teach, create, and lead has inspired and thrilled. It is always a wonder watching someone go so fearlessly and passionately into the landscape of creation – and she does it so magnificently.

“This experience has helped me grow as both an artist and a person, and has inspired me exponentially.”

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 25600

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/100 sec at F4, ISO 25600

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/100 sec at F4, ISO 25600

Jarrett Esaw

Jarrett’s love for photography revolves around natural light. With a focus on street photography, he often spends his time exploring his home city of New York in search of that perfect moment.

Jarrett’s passion for natural light is only matched by his love for print, believing his images are not fully realized until on paper. Assisting photographer Liz Nielson, who specializes in analog color darkroom printing, proved perfect.

“Most of my printing is done using alternative processes, so it was great to practice traditional darkroom printing as well,” insists Jarrett. “I’m especially happy that I gained so much experience with color darkroom printing, since I had only tried it twice before the internship.”

He goes on to highlight the responsibility and creative freedom afforded to him, and how this helped his development as an artist.

“I’m glad that Liz trusted me with her work and ideas. I gained a huge amount of confidence as a printer and photographer,” he explains. “Liz taught me tons about color and printing large images. I’m excited to use some of the techniques I learned and apply them to my own work!”

Since working with the organization, Jarett had the opportunity to collaborate with Fujifilm on the launch of FUJIFILM X-T5. Learn more about this mentorship experience here.

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/20 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © Jarrett Esaw | FUJIFILM X-T3 and FUJINON XF56mmF1.2 R, 1/60 sec at F3.6, ISO 1600

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/30 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/20 sec at F4, ISO 800

Afrida Ahmed

Afrida is a photography student whose work explores ideas of intimacy, familiar space, and identity. However, their love for image making doesn’t stop at pressing the shutter release.

Ever since their first introduction to darkroom printing, Afrida has continued to explore analog process, technique, and history. They were therefore excited to be mentored by Sam Dole, Penumbra Foundation’s lead tintypist and studio manager.

“The collodion wet plate process encompasses all my favorite things about photography – its rich history, technique, and ability to adapt for all kinds of goals and situations,” Afrida enthuses. “In a time when I felt personally frustrated with art-making and creativity, the Tintype Studio at Penumbra Foundation allowed me to explore imagery with new light.”

Afrida tells us their role was much more than just ‘studio intern’: it would be better described as student, PA, mentee, collaborator, and educator all rolled into one.

They particularly highlight how they were encouraged to bring their own knowledge and personality to the table.

“I am especially grateful to the people I have been able to strengthen relationships with – the generosity and wisdom I’ve encountered over the summer has been the greatest honor,” says Afrida.

“I’m excited to continue this exploration, both at Penumbra Foundation and in my own work as a student of photography.”

Photo 2022 © Penumbra Foundation | FUJIFILM X-S10 and FUJINON XF16-80mmF4 R OIS WR, 1/20 sec at F4, ISO 800

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/60 sec at F4, ISO 2000

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/60 sec at F4, ISO 2000

Ella Baum

Ella is a Brooklyn-based writer and photographer who tells stories using photography and poetry that work together in playful communion. Her mentor was fellow Brooklyn resident, award-winning photographer, and prolific educator Kate Ovaska.

“It was inspiring to witness how Kate melded ideas and memories in her images through various presentational modalities,” says Ella. “She thinks deeply about which materials and processes will best support the content of her photographs.”

As Kate is an artist in residence at Penumbra Foundation, Ella spent most of her time at the heart of the organization, helping her form those all-important relationships with fellow creatives.

“This program immersed me in a lively NYC photography community and allowed me to benefit from the resources that the Penumbra Foundation and Fujifilm have to offer,” Ella continues.

Ella assisted Kate in a variety of ways – from researching and assisting on photo shoots, through to digital printing and archiving. Such a broad spectrum of responsibilities helped her gain experience in all aspects of the photographic cycle from a practical perspective.

However, the benefits did not stop there. By working alongside such an experienced artist, Ella had the opportunity to draw on Kate’s knowledge and expertise to feed her own inspiration.

“Kate’s penchant for experimentation and her desire to push photographic boundaries will certainly inform my own work moving forward.

“There are not a lot of programs in the city that prioritize the learning and welfare of young, aspiring artists,” concludes Ella. “I am excited to see the program develop over time and I hope that many young photographers will have the opportunity to participate.”

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/60 sec at F4, ISO 2000

Stories like these are the reason Penumbra Foundation does what it does. Not only is the team motivated by educating and inspiring others, but with most going through the same process before becoming part of the community, the joy and pride runs at an even deeper level.

“My main hope is that the interns could build relationships with the artists that will last longer than the three-month confines of this program,” says Chloe.

While continued artistic collaboration is the main aim, on a broader level, she hopes the program has equipped each intern with transferrable skills valuable outside the creative environment.

“Regardless of what they end up doing in their careers, I hope they gained life skills from this program that they’ll continue to use in various facets of their lives.

“Through this program and others, I hope we can continue to grow our community and provide a space where artists feel comfortable coming together and learning from one another.”

Learn more about Penumbra Foundation by visiting its profile page
here.

Photo 2022 © Ella Baum | FUJIFILM X-H2S and FUJINON XF18-120mmF4 LM PZ WR, 1/60 sec at F4, ISO 2000

Penumbra Foundation

Based in Manhattan, New York City, Penumbra Foundation champions the rising and recognized voices of photography. Focusing on underlying histories, the non-profit seeks to impart knowledge of tangible, ‘handmade’ technologies to a wider audience. Founded in 1988, an even-handed mix of physical and digital approaches ensures that comprehensive understanding – a gateway to unlocking potential – is always foregrounded.

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