When I moved to Philadelphia in fall 2000, Photolounge was only three years old. In fact, it wasn’t even Photolounge yet — it was CBOP, Camera Brokers of Philadelphia. Ravid Butz and his small team got their start on 15th Street selling used film cameras to students, many from the nearby Art Institute (RIP). By the time I started working in the Architects Building at 17th & Sansom in summer 2001, they’d added film processing and printing services.
CBOP moved to 1909 Chestnut in 2002 and became Photolounge. I bought my first DSLR camera there in 2006, a Canon Rebel XT. In 2008, we collaborated on an exhibition called Product Placement, a hybrid show that featured my recent photos of Philadelphia (including an up-close wide angle of Billy Penn’s face atop City Hall in a time before drones) through the products Photolounge offered: matte/lustre paper at various sizes in different frames. After 19 years on Chestnut Street, navigating a photography world that’s evolved ever quicker in the world post-iPhone and post-Instagram, Photolounge moved again.
In June 2021, they opened the doors of their new location at 130 South 17th Street. Designed by Frank Furness, it was built in 1887, the southernmost of five contiguous speculative homes for developer Joseph Solomon. Solomon liked the building so much he made it is home. When I worked at 17th & Sansom, Torreo Coffee was on the basement level, my go-to coffee shop. It’s now Luke’s Lobster. Directly above that has been Gomo’s Nail Salon that whole time. And the three floors above that? That’s now Photolounge.
The rear side of the first level is the main retail space — cashier/checkout, accessory products, passport photos. The second floor’s rear has the main digital printing space, from easy 4x6s uploaded through Photolounge’s Mobilab app to large scale prints on fine art Baryta paper. In the front of the store, a rotating gallery occupies both floors, visibly connected through a large opening. The third floor is where all the film processing happens, as well as lounge and group space. Above it all is an original Furness light well, and all three floors are brought together through a stairwell with original railings restored by handiman about town Matt Rumain.
I’m proud to partner with Photolounge again, and on this project in particular. The subject matter of the photos is what Philadelphia is getting wrong. But the space where they came off the printer is a classic example of what we could, and should, be doing. 130 South 17th Street was added to both the National Register and Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 1978.