donating old photography equipment


A few years ago I spent some time racing vintage motorcycles. It was a great flashback to my youth, working on and riding a vintage 1974 Suzuki motocross bike. Motorcycles (and Steelers football) were the common ground my dad and I shared so it brought back wonderful memories, working in the garage with the same tools we used way back then.

june_7__1931I’ll hang on to those tools forever but the motorcycles have come and gone. After racing and refining that Suzuki for two seasons, getting it perfectly dialed in, I realized there wouldn’t be time for racing for awhile. Rather than seeing the bike sit, I wanted it to be in the hands of someone who would appreciate it. A buyer was found online, somebody that knew the inner workings of that engine design every bit as well as I did. Hopefully it’s still appreciated in the same way today.

And so it goes for photo equipment. I don’t normally keep things around that aren’t being used if there’s someone else that can use it. Right now, with the holidays here, giving is especially prominent in people’s minds. In case you have some old gear gathering dust, I thought I’d toss out a few different ways old photo and computer equipment might benefit others.

I’ll say right up front that I’m not usually the one leading the volunteer charge. But I do know a number of people that fit that mold, so requests for help appear pretty regularly in my email inbox. My friends know I have a hard time saying ‘no’ to a good cause so I generally do whatever possible to help out. And, though subsequent benefits are not the priority, giving can have some year-end tax rewards. We can all use those kinds of breaks, too.

Here are some different ways my studio has found to help out local causes with our unused equipment:

1. Do you remember all that darkroom equipment mentioned in ‘around the net’ a month or two ago? Just last week our local ASMP chapter sent a notice about a new non-profit photo gallery / educational facility looking for darkroom equipment. It will be called Prairie Gallery and is headed by University of Cincinnati photo instructor David Rosenthal.

Our three Omega D5 enlargers, lenses, negative carriers, et al, were just what David was looking for. Replacement value for everything we had was probably in the tens of thousands of dollars but finding a buyer would be almost impossible. Donating the enlargers to this worthy cause not only benefits Prairie Gallery, David also mentioned that the University of Cincinnati could use the spare parts since they use D5s, also. Bonus!

2. During the past year I’ve donated framed prints to fund raisers. In the spring I had a show called “Forgotten America” at The Carnegie Arts Center in Northern Kentucky. A few prints sold but the others are sitting in storage, waiting for requests for raffle donations. It’s been easy to reach into the bin and make recent donations to both a local photo school and a church funding a trip to Mumbai.

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3. The Kennedy Heights Arts Center, a community cooperative, was looking for donations for their youth photo program. Along with a bulk loader and some film developing and darkroom equipment, Daylight Photo (Bob, Bethany and I) each donated an unused, personal 35mm film camera (two Nikons and a Minolta). The work done by the first class was inspirational! It makes the donation even more meaningful if you’re able to see the result of your contribution.

4. Just the other day I asked a photo instructor if she would have any need for a couple of old point and shoot cameras that are sitting around. Without hesitation she mentioned a public school program that could put them to use. Again, these little cameras are worth nothing on the market but are valuable to an under-funded program.

5. Old, slow computers are of little use to photographers running up-to-date operating systems and software. But, walking around our new studio building the other day, I ran into someone that is putting now “ancient” Pentium II and Pentium III computers to use. He refurbishes them as simple email and word processing machines for nursing homes. Recycling is awesome, reusing is even better.

6. Some of our clients leave behind products: doors, windows, etc. Seriously. There are also extra building materials used for set construction, like carpet and flooring. During our recent studio move / cleanup Bob hauled a bunch of that stuff to a place called Building Value, a local non-profit reseller of new overstock and used building supplies.

None of the above are hugely grand gestures, they are just answers to requests or easily identified ways to keep things from gathering dust or hitting a landfill. Taken individually, none of them takes an inordinate amount of effort, but I can see now how they all add up. It’s safe to say that myself and the studio have reaped as many benefits from these contributions as the recipients.