Worthless studios has a mission to provide space, materials, technical assistance and resources for aspiring artists of all backgrounds to realize their artistic visions. Founded in 2016 by Neil Hamamoto, and incorporated as a nonprofit in 2019, worthless studios was conceived as a not-for-profit platform committed to knowledge exchange, manufacturing, and public art. With the purpose (or intention) of serving the art community rather than being driven by profit. In just two years, the studio has begun to showcase work from new artists in a number of different mediums including sculpture, painting, photography and performance.
Worthless studios is a place where aspiring artists come to learn concrete production skills. In addition to studio space, emerging artists need access to equipment and facilities like woodworking and metalworking tools, laser cutters, 3D printers and darkroom facilities. However, these spaces usually charge hefty rental and fabrication fees. Therefore, it can be extremely expensive for an average local resident to make an artistic vision a reality. At worthless studios, we provide an affordable alternative to artists in our area to realize those creative dreams.
SD: How did Free Film begin?
NH: The original idea came back in October of 2018. It came from my effort to do a public art project being produced under my studio’s name, worthless studios, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit profit organization for artists to share tools, space, and resources. A friend of mine called me with an opening in his space on Canal Street. They asked us to do an install for the space so the three of us came together and decided to center the project around photography and old school darkroom processes. We gave away 100 rolls on Canal Street in less than 10 hours and ended up getting 85 rolls back. A jury made a selection of 100 photographs which were then printed and exhibited for the public to enjoy. We did all the printing ourselves in the darkroom space we built for the project. That’s really how it started, and in taking the positive feedback we got from Canal street and tying it into our personal desires to do a cross-country road trip, the idea for FREE FILM : USA was born.
SD: What is your goal for this project?
NH: A personal goal is to see a lot of the country. There is a lot out there and I believe as a young artist it’s important to learn about your country, see new places, and meet new people! Down the line these experiences will be sources of inspiration that will help us create. My inspiration comes from personal experiences and that’s what I’m out here doing.
SD: Do you have a number of rolls per stop?
FT: Our budget is 100 rolls per city based on population size, so we will give a little and take a little depending on the city size.
FT: The essence of what the project is, is very tied in with seeing the country. The people you give a roll to will capture life, areas, cities, and towns that we are in. But when a roll is developed, we get to see what the community captured and say “wow this is right here?” We get the sense of traveling and touring with local artists – so all the artists we meet are on this journey with us.
SD: How are you guys feeling? This is stop one and you have three months to go?
SJ: I feel like the reality sets in when you look at how deep your bag is. Trying to figure out where your jackets for winter will go. Stop one will be one of the most difficult to progress through. We’re still working out the kinks and trying to find our rhythm in the workflow. Now that we’ve starter though we are now on a deadline and timeline so we are just in motion at this point, rolling with the punches.
SD: As a business where do you want this to go?
NH: If you boil it down to a physical product we want to land a publishing deal for a beautiful photo book and produce a short documentary. These would both be huge opportunities for worthless studios, a great way to get our name out there a bit more and a new example of what young conceptual artists can do these days.
SD: FREE FILM : USA, It almost sounds like you guys are anticipating to take this elsewhere, are you?
NH: Possibly, We are hoping to get great feedback and support to where maybe a team in a different country gets inspired and would like to do the same thing in their country.
SD: What has been the most difficult thing to overcome?
FT: Building this Airstream out in 4 months was its own entire full time task in itself. We gutted and built every piece custom with new plumbing and electric and even a solar panel system that lets us power the darkroom when we are out on the open road.
SD: Why film?
NH: It all comes back to the studio space and the darkroom and working with Sean. Film photography has been a medium I’ve enjoyed my whole life and has always been closely linked to my personal life and travel. But as much as I’ve shot and learned about the darkroom I’m certainly no pro and it’s that imperfection that I’m trying to encapsulate in this project. We don’t care if you’re a National Geographic photographer or a first-timer. FREE FILM : USA is about creative activation, exploration, community and sharing.