In 1991, Bay Area arts benefactor Stuart Kogod opened a small storefront gallery and community darkroom on Polk Street in San Francisco. Combining the last name of Surrealist Man Ray and the first two letters of his own, RayKo Photo Center quickly emerged as a vital resource for photographers seeking reasonably priced darkroom access; youth and continuing education classes; exhibition and residency opportunities, and community involvement. RayKo moved to its current location on Third Street in 2004. At 12,000 square feet, it is the largest photographic community center west of the Mississippi.
In January 2017, Kogod announced that the building housing RayKo is up for sale, citing that the space could only succeed if it secured sustainable financial support beyond his own. If the sale is completed and RayKo shutters its doors, San Francisco will lose an irreplaceable space that has served both regional and national photographic communities for more than 25 years.
Humble’s senior editor Roula Seikaly posted a call for input from photographers who have worked, taught, learned, or exhibited at RayKo Photo Center. What follows are thoughts, memories and images produced by of a few of those artists whose practice and professional arc have been significantly enhanced by their association with RayKo. The post closes with a love letter to Ann Jastrab, RayKo’s ace gallery director and vocal photography advocate.
Thank you to all of the contributors, and to all those associated with RayKo Photo Center for helping to keep the doors of this unique institution open through numerous trials and tribulations.
Interviews by Roula Seikaly