Artist Jillian Thorvaldson teaches people the ins and outs of a darkroom during her class at Redux | Photo provided

Photographer Jillian Thorvaldson said she wants to share the “magic of the darkroom” by offering classes at Redux Contemporary Art Center, where she works as both a studio artist and darkroom assistant. 

“The tangibility of it all, watching your work come to life in the darkroom, you really learn how to make photos instead of take photos,” Throavldson said. “When you understand the developing and printing processes, it makes you slow down when you’re photographing.” 

Throvaldson graduated from the College of Charleston in May 2022. She studied studio art with a focus in photography, as well as arts management. During her time in the photo department, she became somewhat of a darkroom pro. Now, she’s offering one-on-one classes in the darkroom at Redux.

Throvaldson called herself a “photographic artist” because she likes the intentionality in that term, she said.

“As a photographer, you are working with the existing world, and [the art] is how you manipulate that world to make the photograph you wanna make.”

Throvaldson said understanding the darkroom process means better understanding light, which is imperative to creating successful photos on film. 

“There are so many things to consider when making a photograph,” Thorvaldson said. “[For example], how am I gonna frame this? What time of day should I go and take this? How is the light gonna hit this? It’s knowing how those surroundings will be impacted by the light.”

The darkroom class with Throvaldson is $60 per hour for a one-on-one class or $90 an hour for two students at once. 

“In the first class, we’ll practice putting film in the reel and developing it in the dark, learning what all the chemicals do. When you finally get to see the photos you’ve made, it’s the most magical feeling ever,” she said. 

Thorvaldson reviews the basics of the printing process in the second lesson. This class might be especially helpful, she said, for digital photographers or artists who use tools like Photoshop. 

Thorvaldson said her photography often focuses on portraiture

“Being in the darkroom made me understand Photoshop. Dodging and burning, filters, thinking about layers… [after learning to use the darkroom], I understand now that Photoshop is a darkroom on a screen,” she said.

After two or three classes, Thorvaldson said her photographic students should have the groundwork and tools to better understand their materials and gain confidence as artists. 

“I don’t expect you to leave as a darkroom pro,” she said. “But you will leave with more confidence, especially in understanding how your materials work. You will have space to practice, to get better, to experiment.”

For her own photographic artwork, Thorvaldson specializes in portraiture. As an artist, she said she is motivated by asking questions about diversity, equality and what it means to make art.  Her varied portfolio includes close-up shots of bugs on flowers, along with cinematic, black and white, artful portrait shoots and even concert photography.

A recent project by Thorvaldson is a zine called, “To Love in a Place Where You’re Hated,” which features photographs and interviews with six individuals who shared their experiences being queer in the South. 

Throvaldon’s love for the process always shines through her various projects. 

“I just really love the tangibility, the process, the time and the commitment that being good in a darkroom takes,” she said. “Not everybody has that kind of patience, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I had that kind of patience. But the darkroom has shown me a lot about myself, and about my work. I think a lot of other people could benefit from it.”

To register for the darkroom class, contact Jillian at

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