End of an era

MARQUETTE – A downtown Marquette institution for the past three-and-a-half decades is drawing to a close today, but the historical images and memories it created will never fade.

Jack Deo, owner of Superior View Studios on Washington Street, is closing his studio after 35 years, but will continue to do what he does best – connecting people with the histories of their communities and ancestors and giving people in the digital age a sense of the past.

“We’re ending a 35-year run here. I’ve been 10 years on this corner (Washington and Third) and I was 25 (years) above Donckers since 1978,” Deo said. “It’s just time to ‘retail retire,’ I’m calling it “I’m going to continue answering the phone ‘Superior View’ and doing photography, and copy and restoration, and we’re leaving a lot of these photos across the street at The Art of Framing so people can still buy reprints from us. The only difference is we’re not going to have the store anymore.”

In the world of photography, in Deo you can find where the past and the future intersect.

He has been around long enough to witness photography’s transformation from film to digital, and he’s embraced the technological changes – a situation made all the more special in the fact that his products are photographs from through the Upper Peninsula’s history.

“We have a website with 20,000 images on it, and that’s our whole collection people can always look at and order, but we have 1,000 of our bestsellers in an Ebay store, and we ship those all over the world every day,” Deo said. “So we sell photos and can do it from home now. … I’m doing so much on the Internet that I don’t need the overhead of the store anymore.”

For customers in the area, Deo’s products satisfy a sought-after nostalgia, a connection to how things used to be, a sense of who we are and where we’ve come from.

“Well I think it is nostalgia,” Deo said. “People when they buy an old town scene, it’s usually because there’s a gas station they remember, or there’s the store where we bought our pops in when we were kids, so I get a lot of that just bringing back memories.

“Because their grandfather was a miner, they just put up a picture of a mine he used to work at. A lot of people ask me, ‘Do you have the Mather B? My grandpa used to work there.’ So they buy the Mather B.”

While Deo continues to work with film he has enthusiasm for the proliferation of digital photography.

“I have my foot in both worlds still,” he said. “I still am in the darkroom half the day and I’m on the scanner half the day. And that’s kind of neat. To live in that era where I saw that happen is amazing, it’s just amazing.

“I love digital. You can manipulate the photo in ways you could never do in a darkroom. I’d dodge and burn and spot-tone – I don’t have to do that anymore. I do it in cloning and in Photoshop. For copy and restoration, it’s the greatest thing in the world. And I never miss buying film and paying for processing.”

While using the Internet and photo-editing technology to aid his work, Deo said he does have some trepidation about the preservation of modern photography for the future, when people like him will seek out photographs of today’s world.

“I have my negatives, because negatives have lasted a hundred-and-some years, and I’ve got a CD sitting down there with photos on it, and it’s kind of unproven,” Deo said. “It’s a little scary.”

In addition to that, Deo points out how people are seemingly printing photos less frequently in the digital age.

“Nobody’s printing their photos anymore,” he said. “Everybody saves their little jump drives and they save their little flash cards and nobody ever prints, hardly. Although the scrapbooking craze has helped the fact that people now are putting together albums again. I find that everyone shoots but nobody prints anymore.

“When somebody finds a collection 50 years from now, what are they going to be finding? They’re going to be finding jump drives,” Deo said with a laugh.

Still, these kinds of anxieties about new technology are anything but new to photography.

“The stuff that I’ve got, these photographers went through the same dilemma,” said Deo. “They were shooting wet plates and then the dry plate came out. Well, they didn’t jump right to the dry plate, they were afraid of the dry plate. And I have that, you know, where people were still shooting way longer than they needed to.

“By 1880 the dry plate came out, by 1890 celluloid film was out, but I’ve got 1920 glass plates, so somebody didn’t want to quit glass when they had the chance for 30 years when they could have gone to celluloid. So it’s kind of the same thing now.”

Zach Jay can be reached at 228-200, ext. 243. His email address is photos@miningjournal.net