Tucked beside a tool supplier and an A/V rental business on Southeast 10th and Clay is an unassuming storefront, with a clever logo, that opens into a dazzling white space. There is a room of photographs from the last half of the recent century in a show called “Early Works.” This is the Newspace Gallery and its parent, the Newspace Center for Photography. The facade fits so perfectly into the neighborhood that the metal and wood logo is easy to overlook as many of us hurry past to Free Geek, the Shoebox Theatre or the back way to Blitz.

An old friend, Lewis Koch, told me that in April, he would have a photo in the Newspace Gallery and that I should check it out. There is an impressive array of single photographs shot by children from all over the country who eventually became professionals. Many were shot on very basic equipment: Brownie Holiday, Hawkeye, Coronet and Argoflex.

Lewis Koch’s picture was  on the wall and in the gallery’s brochure. Koch and his parents went to hear Martin Luther King Jr. at a rally for the Congress of Racial Equality in 1965. He had been given a Kodak and was able to take his first picture of this American icon of the civil rights movement, speaking on the back of a pickup truck in suburban Long Island. Koch continued his career and never looked back, with an ever-present camera strap over his shoulder.

Chris Bennett opened the Newspace Center for Photography in 2001 when he acquired the space, formerly a for rent darkroom. A recent transplant from Santa Fe and an Arts graduate from Indiana State, Bennett quickly added a darkroom and lighting classes to his small studio, while chasing his own career as a photographer. By  2005, he had acquired more equipment and more space by adding rooms next door, formerly known as the Conduit Studios, to Newspace. In the same year the Center became a non-profit entity and the visibility of the Gallery grew.

The current show is by Brandon Thibodeaux, a Texan who chronicles life in 15 square miles of the impoverished Mississippi Delta. These black and white images are stunning and thought provoking and extremely foreign to the Portland neighborhood where they are shown.

As Executive Director, Tricia Hoffman, said, “We are dedicated to bringing nationally prominent artists to our gallery like Henry Horenstein, who literally wrote the books on instructional photograph. …classes by Alan Ross, master printer known best for his work with Ansel Adams and certainly Amy Arbus, daughter of Dian Arbus, who definitely inherited her mothers eye for the unexpected.” Lectures and classes by the photographer often accompany these shows.

As the value of arts education is constantly in flux in Portland, the Newspace offers a vital and broad variety of over 60 classes in film and digital photography, printing, lighting, Photoshop, landscape, sports and documentary work. Technique classes vary from the very modern to the art of Albumen printing made famous during the Civil War. The teen summer camps will offer iphone, portrait and skate park photography. The recent elimination of Cleveland High School’s excellent photography classes with Mr. Devine, underline the need for these programs for emerging young artists in our community.

Membership, grants and contributions, both in-kind and financial, from the photographic community are key to the Center’s activities. According to Bennett, “Membership provides resources for our Scholarship Fund, providing to those in financial need and helps us participate in outreach programs, and to expand our facilities. Lake Oswego High School recently donated their darkroom equipment and folks like Blue Moon (in St. Johns) and other businesses have been very supportive.”

In addition to funding the classes, financial support helps Newspace to partner with Washington School for the Deaf, Saturday Academy Portland Community College, as well as My Story, a photography program for “at-risk” youth.

Newspace Center for Photography is a neighborhood asset like few others. It is resource center and community hub for students, working artists, professional photographers, educators, and photo-enthusiasts of all types. With new shows every month, an active volunteer staff and classes to fit every level of expertise, this creative spot is well worth a visit.

1632 SE 10th Ave  503. 963.1935  www.newspacephoto.org