Artist Reception Featuring Saroyan Humphrey


Photoworks is proud to host a new series of photographs by Saroyan Humphrey.

Saroyan Humphrey is a San Francisco based photographer, designer & art director. In 2008 he opened his photography studio for clients & personal projects.

He shoots portraits, forgotten places and landscapes using a variety of medium format and 35mm film cameras.

Saroyan’s photographs have been exhibited in the U.S. and abroad. He has spoken and participated in Bay Area panels on Lomo Photography. Two of his portraits of California musicians were included in the 2011 book Unlimited Grain which was edited by the International Analogue Photographic Society.

Saroyan’s interests also include music, racing & various forms of creative expression.

Reception starts at 7pm tonight
at the shop, 2077A Market St @ Church

Free Pizza if you bring it!!!

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Holiday Greetings From Hannah

Hey everybody, this is Hannah, that clerk from the counter-

I’m doing a guest blog post as dh has been drowning in pesky responsibilities.

I’m not as witty as he is, but I’ll do my best here.


Of course the theme of this particular post is the holidays, though I myself don’t feel like they’re really here again. I’m remembering last December- sitting at the crappy end of a huge table in a garage behind my grandparent’s house with 30 drunk and boisterous family members, I believe I ended up taking my dessert to go and falling asleep early in my old bedroom. It was a very low point of my 20th year (yes, I’m really young).


In any case, it is with the most grateful of spirits that I have thrown myself into the holiday season at Photoworks. As much as the twentieth customer in ten minutes asking me to rush their prints makes me want to chuck the computer over the counter, I love it here. I realize that there are many people that have worked at photo labs before, and some people are completely over it, sick of it, whatever, but I’m the happiest I’ve been in two years.

dh was suspicious when he first hired me this summer; he gave me a quiz on film types and I probably scraped a C- at best. He went on the word of our dear clerk J, the cheerful-beyond-belief type, who I’ve been a friend of for some time, and by some miracle I landed a great job.

I showed up on my first day of work with a tiny alphabetized notebook of film types and their different merits, and proceeded to nerd my way to a nice comfortable position at the shop, and I still learn something new most days. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly thank dh for taking a chance on me, but hey, maybe I can at least inspire a little holiday cheer with the notion of a very happy employee. Who ever heard of that?


As far as the rest of the staff goes, who can say how they feel (though I could sing my praises for our other brown-haired girl at the counter, who is a genuine lady of ladies). All I know is I’m happy as a clam, and compared to last Christmas, working overtime to fill online orders is no bother for me at all. Not to mention the fun new merchandising I’m working on with the Impossible films (we are a partner store now!) and our hero Kile Brekke who has been refurbishing the Polaroid Land Cameras dh finds here and there- which we are actually selling! It’s so inspiring to see something I’m sure most of us thought was a goner become a Christmas present again.

I hope my positivity isn’t making anyone sick; I can just imagine the majority of our staff reading this and thinking I’m crazy, or an ass-kisser, but I’m just genuinely pleased to finally be happy to go to work.

The Intrepid Photo Clerk. photo by Jim Safka


Happy Holidays,


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The Holga Walkers

Scene 1:  Camera pans down to see a group of blood thirsty zombies taking pictures of anything they can find.  Graffiti, spider webs,  telephone wires, and pigeons are no match for this crazed bunch.   Close up shot reveals not actual zombies, but mere mortal toy camera enthusiasts.  It’s not the Walking Dead, it’s the Photoworks Holga Workshop and Walkabout.  These are not scary monsters, just scary talented photographers trying to push the envelope from every angle.  When the locals in a small town see us lurking toward their small houses and rusty trucks, they tend to run and hide.  The site of the plastic holga camera can instill fear in some, but in the right hands it’s not a blood sucker at all, it’s a new means of expression, and it cannot be stopped.

Happy Halloween, and if you should be out and about and see one of the holga walkers, don’t be scared.  You are safe as long as you don’t look in to the flash.

                                                                                                                           lock and load

  • spooky holga persoT



Like A Kid In A Camera Store

I grew up in the sixties and seventies in Southern California and my father, an avid photographer used to take me to many camera stores.  He bought me my first Kodak Instamatic when I was nine, and though it is long gone, it has been replaced by an exact replica, as  I now collect cameras.  These old camera stores were cool with all the iconography and signage of the era, the  Kodak displays, and the faint smell of stop bath from the back room.  My dad could spend an hour chatting f-stops and fixer dilution with the guy behind the counter.  Maybe he’d pickup a new wide angle lens, or a yellow filter, or maybe just some lens cleaning tissue.  There are few such places left, but most have gone from darkrooms to self serve kiosks, and from negatives to pixels. The only cameras marketed to kids today are based on lame cartoon characters, though back in the day there were of plenty Barbie cameras too. ( we can argue Barbie v Dora The Explorer later)

Along with the recent resurgence of film has come a new generation of analog camera lovers.  When you combine that with return of “Polaroid” style instant films and Polaroid camera users you get kind of a Father and Son meeting all over again.  At Photoworks, I thought it would be fun to sell a few used cameras.  I started out with some Polaroids, and now have all sorts of used film cameras.  I can’t keep the stuff on the shelves, and the whole vibe of the shop has picked up with the new camera offerings.

Now I’m searching eBay for SX-70 cameras, and old signs to decorate the shop.  Everyday some new camera comes in the mail.  I clean them up, put them on display, and then they are gone.  For the first time in 23 years, I have people asking me for a ” 28mm nikkor” as if I’m an actual camera store.  I say, “let me check in the back for you,” even though there is no “back.”  So, I am clearly enjoying all of this camera business, and something about it has rekindled some nostalgia in me.   Maybe we’ll have to bring back the old darkroom, now that would make my Dad proud.

Come to Papa

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The Impossible Photo Lab

By now all of you photographers and most of you non photographers are aware of the demise of Polaroid.  It’s over but like all great things analog, you cannot kill the spirit.  Enter The Impossible Project, a small group of people who claimed the remains of the Polaroid factory in The Netherlands, and without much of a recipe have invented a new line of instant films.  The word “impossible” is no understatement, as the technical hurdles rival sending people into space.  By some miracle we now have a full line of new instant films to play with, but they are tricky to work with, kind of like a soup that must be cooked in exactly the right way.  The folks at IP have come up with a few accessories and tricks of the trade that must be applied in order to make the new films work.  So it’s  like a science project of sorts but the results are gratifying and I am willing to work to make some instant film magic.  Photoworks has been offered the new line of films to sell in our store and we are thrilled to be a part of the instant film resurrection.

I feel some kinship with the Impossible folks because for years I struggled to maintain old film printing equipment.  Our lab used to be all Agfa analog printing machines, the look of the prints from those machines helped put our shop on the map.  One day without warning, Agfa went under, and we were stuck with a bunch of old printers and no support.  I hired technicians to keep the machines going, but over the years parts vanished and eventually I gave up. Like every other photo lab, we bought new equipment.  We still print from negatives but not before they are scanned first.  You still see film grain, but it’s just not quite the same thing.  Over the years we have struggled to maintain our analog identity, but it is not easy, and on some days it feels “impossible.”

It’s amazing that something so commonplace as Polaroid would be such advanced science, and that once extinct would be so hard to replicate.  The Impossible Project has not only brought instant films back, they have expanded the line into all kinds of fun directions.  This week Photoworks will be receiving our first shipment of Impossible Project instant films.  We’ll be the only place in town to carry PX 600 Silver Shade with the Black Frame.  Very cool, very analog, suddenly everything seems possible again.

In stock and ready to rock

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The Sweet Bird Of Youth

This post has little to do with the Tennessee Williams play or the Paul Newman film based on the title.  I just like the phrase, and since I’ve turned fifty I’ve become horribly nostalgic.  I have a new employee at Photoworks.  He is in his early twenties, and I hate him because he has such a bright future.  Just kidding.  I can say he has a bright future because he is so genuinely enthusiastic about his job, and has such an upbeat outlook on life and the pursuit of photography.  When I go to a chain store I get a false “have a nice day” greeting even though it might be 11:00 at night.  “J” as I will refer to him greets every customer with sincerity and when he says, “how is your day going?”  He actually really wants to know.  I’ve had some other staff here in the past that would not bother to make eye contact, and the typical camera store worker is pretty detached and at best a snob.  Why is J smiling all the time, why don’t I smile more?  Shit, I own the joint.  Now the kid is not perfect, half the crap on his ipod is annoying and I’m not even sure I like his photos, oh and he’s running a bit of tab on his own work, but who cares?

I can’t just pigeonhole J’s attitude as youthful exuberance, because there are plenty of mean 23 year old’s walking around town scowling.  I can only say that this “kid” gets it, and that he actually loves film photography so much that he can’t wait to tell every customer about the fine grain of Ektar 100.  So at 50 years old, and after standing in the same spot for 23 years, I am getting some new energy for my job in the form of J’s positive attitude.

Customer service, what a concept.

                                                                                             Just Happy To Be Here

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Making Out With Yelp

Yelp, a four letter word indeed.  Scares me like the smoke monster from Lost.   Can’t live with it, can’t live without it.  It’s the gospel and total bullshit.  People will write reviews of car washes and pay toilets.  Personally, I have used it only once when I had food poisoning from an Indian restaurant down the coast where I live.  It seemed warranted to note that, “I almost died from the curry in this joint.”  Looking back on the incident, it is possible that maybe I was sick before I had the lunch special, and maybe one star was unfair??

I realize the service that yelp provides, giving us clueless people a heads up so we don’t step on glass when we try a business.  As a business owner, feedback is important, I want to know if I “suck at processing film.”  I want to know if an employee has treated you poorly, or that you feel ripped off.  I get that it is your civic duty to monitor local businesses, give reviews, commentary, love and hate.  And, I clearly understand that the savvy yelper takes reviews in context, and that it is clear when the reviewer is a nut job, or just a vindictive asshole.    Having said all of this……………I still hate a bad review, even if the comments are just.  I am an onsite owner who you can talk to and complain to my face.  Whatever happened to, “can I speak with the owner.?  Can’t we resolve our differences the old fashioned way?  I’d rather “take it outside” then have you go home and blindside me with your keyboard. Wake up Dave, it’s the internet!

Hey I have 4 stars, so what’s my problem?  I guess I take everything personally, and it hurts when someone gives you one star, and honestly the few bad reviews I have are pretty off base, not all but some are just plain wrong.  I look at this as a loss of income, food off my kid’s table.  Should I take the “input” and make the necessary changes?  Sure, but has the damage been done?  I wish I was as cool as the God Head Produce Market in The Mission, but I’m not that kind of business.  We provide many different services to many different types of customers, which does open the door for scrutiny.  All I am asking is that if you are going to be negative, ask yourself this question:  “Is it possible I had a stomach ache before I ordered?”  And please remember that small businesses are run by small people with small families, and that what you say really matters.  This is coming from a guy who mouths off at everything, but at least I try and fire my shots at the Chevron’s of the world.

In closing, let me say that this is a bit of a pathetic blog post on my part, borderline sensitive…I’ll go back to sarcasm next time.

FOOTNOTE HERE:  I just did a Yelp Deal Of The Day, basically giving away money.  I’m hoping for new business, but also hoping to offer something nice to the loyal regulars.  So, I’m in bed with yelp now, playing both sides of the fence.

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Your Photography is Too Serious for This Cool Cafe

My friend and good customer V just had her photo show removed from this so called “we do everything the right way” coffee place in San Francisco’s most bitchen neighborhood.  The works, innocuous elements of an apartment, basically muted color photos of furniture was deemed “too intense for people trying to escape into a cup of coffee.”   The problem it seems was the artist’s statement which was interpreted by someone to be about “loss, attachment, family, and death,” are concepts too heavy to process with a $4.00 cup of something called single origin espresso.  Someone wearing a black beanie in 90 degree weather must have looked up from their laptop long enough to be traumatized. So I guess the mass produced shots of sepia toned coffee beans found at Starbucks would be more appropriate or as the owner wrote, ” the art that belongs in a cafe is fluffier stuff and should not make people think about the tough questions in life:  pictures of telephone poles, birds sitting on wires, tapestries of heavy metal lyrics, whimsical stuff.”  So like a nice, soothing  Metallica Macrome?

There are too many hypocrisies and ironies to point out here.  I actually believe that the clientele of this coffee house would appreciate something thought provoking, these are not stupid suburbanites, but serious  people that think about stuff for a living.  Hmmmm, makes me wonder if the cafe wants to expand it’s customer base to the non-thinking coffee drinkers?

The big problem is that the cafe agreed to show the work, the artist made a huge financial and personal investment, and she has now been shown the door because of a photo of ……….a door.  I hate to rat on any local business but this cafe, a  self proclaimed organic mecca has shown it’s true colors by removing this photography.  A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community.

They might want to change the name to……….you fill in the blanks.

Here is the actual work:–

this one gave me nightmares?

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Weed Scan

Today is the long awaited grand opening of The Apothecarium in San Francisco.  Right next door to Photoworks.  Loosely defined, the word means pharmacist, and safe to say they don’t sell scripts of Tylenol.   We are happy to have our new neighbors since a thriving business of any kind beats an empty storefront.  Funny,  several of my staff are suddenly coming down with various injuries requiring emergency medical appointments?  I’m trying to think of some cross (pollination) promotions I can do with the new shop next door.  We offer several levels of film scanning here at photoworks, and in honor of the dispensary, for one day only we will offer the “weed scan.”  Bring in any roll of film (after) you visit the shop next door and we will scan it for free.   We assume no responsibility for the results.

"weed scan"

You can visit our new neighbors at 2095 Market St, they are nice people offering a great service to the community, not sure if their site is up, but I’d say this is one store where you want to sample the goods before buying.


Root Root Root For The Film Team

“And if they don’t win it’s a shame.”  Well it seems like the film team is going to win after all.  Much like the SF Giants, the film shooters are a band of over achieving misfits coming together at just the right time.  And like our World Series Champs, the film team was born out of  disenfranchisement .  In this case a frustration with digital photography as an art form.  I’m certain that The SFAI teaches plenty on digital photography, but isn’t it ironic that many people I meet prefer to explore the boundaries of film and alternative processes.  The toy camera, holga, and lomo are the low fidelity player’s choice around here.

This Friday we will hold a reception here at Photoworks to prove the point.  Hope you can join us, and meet the members of the San Francisco Toy Camera Club, or as I call them, The Film Team.  ( certainly not misfits)

"doubles" not really about baseball

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