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Dominic Iacopino has a battery that never runs out of juice. The veteran received his B.S. in Chemistry from the U.S. Naval Academy, served nearly a decade as a helicopter pilot in the Marines and hiked the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail – only to discover his love for photography.

The artist moved to Denver at the beginning of the year to pursue his passion behind the lens at Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design (RMCAD). As a photography student, Iacopino had plenty to develop in the darkroom on campus, which came to an abrupt halt when RMCAD was forced to switch to its blended learning environment due to COVID-19.

While RMCAD instructors, staff and faculty were adjusting classes to best serve its students, Iacopino took a challenge into his own hands, literally. That’s when the artist decided to renovate his backyard shed into his own photography darkroom. Iacopino says he wants people to know that there is much more to photography than what meets the eye, “the idea isn’t just to build a darkroom in my back yard – it’s to show people how interesting photography really is. The whole analog process of capturing a moment, preserving it, and watching a print of it develop before your own eyes is really a fascinating concept that I would like to share.”

From start to finish, the construction took nearly two weeks. Iacopino credits this personal project to what he learned in his Darkroom I class, “it goes to show how much can be taught in one week. I went from not knowing light-sensitive paper existed, to be able to fully process a roll of film from start to finish,” he said. “Professor Dobbs helped out and I relied heavily on his recommendations, which has turned out great.”

The most difficult part of a project like this is the analysis paralysis, Iacopino said. “I was most concerned about the amount of money and effort required to make the darkroom. Professor Dobbs reminded our class how long darkroom processes have been around; photography isn’t new, and the technology required is relatively simple. How hard or expensive could it be if people have been doing this since the 1800s?”, he said. It can be easy to get caught up in the start of a big project, but Iacopino wants his peers to know that if you are truly committed, no amount of adversity will prevent you from bringing your vision to life.

As you can tell, Iacopino is a quick learner and a true creative, adapting his skills in the classroom to real life. “It is important to create now, during quarantine, because even though social activities are limited, your mind hasn’t slowed down at all. All of the tension in the atmosphere leads to great stories that need to be told,” he said. The photography student sees a positive difference in his creativity with the change of schedule. “I’ve found that I have fewer dedicated work sessions, but when I do work, they are longer and more productive. I would certainly prefer to be back on campus, but the transition has been surprisingly smooth; I accredit this to both the students and faculty putting in an extra effort to make the classes beneficial for all,” he said.

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