April 6, 2013

The end of the Sears Portrait Studio.

How could it have survived even this long in the era of selfies and Instagrams? We all already know what everyone looks like. The ponderous, formal recording ourselves for posterity isn't a notion capable of ever crossing our minds again. It will be snapshots on the fly from here on out.

The end of Sears family portraits.
  
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31 comments:

Sorun said...

It survived this long due to bitter clingers in fly-over country. Guns, religion, and old-fashioned family portraits from Sears.

edutcher said...

Since a lot of people take lousy pictures, its loss will be felt.

Sears is in trouble generally and not expected to last too much longer, so that may be part of it. Why Wally World's is closing is another matter.

I just hope they don't take Lands' End with them when they go.

Oso Negro said...

A lot of people do take lousy pictures, but in the digital age they are easily deleted or cropped. If you snap off hundreds of them, eventually you will get something editable.

St. George said...

When the next recession starts any day now (not that the present one ever ended), Sears itself will vanish along with J.C. Penney.

Fascinating how the the market's life cycle creates and destroys companies while the government's operations are seemingly immune.

Phil 3:14 said...

Reminds me of one of our family's favorite board games,
Awkward Family Photos.

Chip Ahoy said...

We'll always have AFP

ironrailsironweights said...

It's a pity that some people have lost their jobs, otherwise this doesn't mean much.

Peter

Phil 3:14 said...

Chip,
Great minds....

(Note to self: don't flatter yourself)

Chef Mojo said...

We never did the Sears Portrait studio in my family. Dad was an outstanding amateur photographer, who could to wonders with a self timer. We have a fantastic portrait, circa 1968 of all of us in our Easter Sunday best arrayed on the couch in the living room. The light is natural. He used two cameras, one loaded with Pan-X (B&W) and the other loaded with Ectachrome (Color) slide film. I always liked the B&W pic the best. All four of us look pretty relaxed, although I recall my little brother getting ring bopped by Dad for squirming so much initially.

Sorry to see Sears shutter the Portrait Studios, however. I've seen some great work from those studios. Formal portrait photography is a serious challenge, especially where kids are involved. Notions and methods of photography have changed radically, and sometimes not for the better. I think there will continue to be a market for portraiture, and both amateurs and professionals will compete to fill the gap.

edutcher said...

St. George said...

When the next recession starts any day now (not that the present one ever ended), Sears itself will vanish along with J.C. Penney.

Actually, you're talking about the next market "correction".

And, last I read, Penneys was expected to survive.

Sorun said...

The new family portrait: In the bathroom mirror.

Patrick said...

JC Penney actually had done a creditable job taking portraits of my kids, which really isn't all that easy. They do it for a reasonable price too.

ricpic said...

Althouse's "We" is the elite perfect people we. That other ways of seeing the world and being in the world exist for multitudes is not acknowledged and barely tolerated.

bpm4532 said...

Digital cameras can take great pictures (though still not up to the level of good slide film) and most people don't know shit about lighting or the proper focal length to produce a good portrait, let alone printing it on decent paper that last a while.

We'll be left with a lot of crappy portraits that face quickly and digital files that will get lost or corrupted.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

One of the real issues that I have with digital photos of families is that while easy to take photos and easy to view......where will these ephemeral electronic images be in 50 years? 100 years? Photos of people from the Civil War still exist. Historical records that are fascinating and tangible. I have 80 year old photos of my Father as a child. Photos of my Great Grandfather from Wales in the 1880 taken in Rock Springs Wyo where they lived at that time. Other family photos that capture people long dead. There is no need to worry about compatibility with ever changing technology systems [BetaMax anyone?] or accidental erasure. Burning up or other physical destruction sure...always a risk. But all I need are my eyes to view the historical record of my family.

The lack of a permanent record of our own personal histories is really troubling. In addition, much of our wider historical records of current events can easily go down the rabbit hole or be photoshopped, edited and warped to suit future sensibilities. No one LIKES to look at the horrific photos of WWII concentration camps or lynchings of blacks in the post Civil War era....but, because those things exist, we are forced to confront our past. If those things can be erased with the click of a key, or an electromagnetic pulse....how would we know our history.

In 100 years,it may appear that we will not have existed since we have left no records for future generations.

virgil xenophon said...

I'm with DBQ all the way here. The recent photoshopping of Churchill's famous cigar out of one of his more prominent photos by one of the wire services to meet PC sensibilities is but the most recent example that immediately comes to mind.

And don't forget vital scientific data, either. HUGE amounts of government data about everything from forest lands to mineral resources, rainfall records, etc., from the early 70, 80, 90s are locked away encrypted on machines with custom programs that can no longer be read as either the programs have become corrupt or the machines/computers no longer physically work and all the programmers who devised these custom programs are dying and
their knowledge with them. This is a MAJOR problem flying under the radar..

Ann Althouse said...

"The new family portrait: In the bathroom mirror."

Very nice. Artistic and natural. Plus, nice family.

Ann Althouse said...

"Digital cameras can take great pictures (though still not up to the level of good slide film) and most people don't know shit about lighting or the proper focal length to produce a good portrait, let alone printing it on decent paper that last a while."

I've taken 10s of thousands of digital photos and never printed a single one.

Ann Althouse said...

"One of the real issues that I have with digital photos of families is that while easy to take photos and easy to view......where will these ephemeral electronic images be in 50 years? 100 years? Photos of people from the Civil War still exist. Historical records that are fascinating and tangible. I have 80 year old photos of my Father as a child. Photos of my Great Grandfather from Wales in the 1880 taken in Rock Springs Wyo where they lived at that time...."

But 100 years from now you will have photos of great-grandma naked.

Those pictures never go away.

On the internet.

Shawn L. said...

"most people don't know shit about lighting or the proper focal length to produce a good portrait, let alone printing it on decent paper that last a while."

And "most people" include those working in those Sears studios. It was paint-by-numbers level of work.

Ann Althouse said...

"And "most people" include those working in those Sears studios. It was paint-by-numbers level of work."

Weren't all the specs about the equipment predetermined? Wasn't it mostly customer service, being reasonably nice to the people while telling them where to sit and where to look?

St. George said...

Good story about the demise of the Kodak Corporation.

It declared bankruptcy in 2012. Its headquarters city of Rochester, NY, has also been badly wounded by the event.

Classic case of an industry leader that is shattered by the emergence of a disruptive technology, i.e. digitalization of imagery. La-la-la. Nothing's happening. We'll ignore it. It will go away.

I wandered into a photo restoration store yesterday. Classic place. Run down part of a city. Badly lit. Third-generation owner. Filled with creepy old photos that had been restored by hand or digitally. The owner said the quality of photo paper started declining in the 1950s when companies like Kodak reduced the silver content in the paper (?) to save money.

St. George said...

Another piece about Kodak that compares its demise and the decline of Fuji Film to the Dem. and GOP.

The implication is that voters, like consumers, will utterly abandon existing loyalties to parties just as they do to companies when something better comes along.

Thus, the great rise in the number of Americans calling themselves independents..."The most important long-term trend in American politics is the half-century leak in market share by the country’s political duopoly. This January, Gallup released its latest study on the question of political self-identification, finding that "the proportion of independents in 2011 was the largest in at least 60 years"--a stunning 40 percent. Democrats were at a desultory 31 percent, and Republicans proved utterly unable to capitalize on a bad, Democrat-led economy, trending downward to 27 percent."

C Stanley said...

I'm sure the lighting and exposures were all preset, but any talent involved was in getting the kids positioned well.

Much better though is to find a good photographer who can capture ypur kids as they really are. I found a superlative one and got some priceless photos of my kids running around in a park, and then just a couple of obligatory posed shots. The guy has a real knack for capturing personalities.

C Stanley said...

Funny that DBQ mentioned the permanance thing because my brother recently scanned our ancestors photos so that they'll last longer. Printed photos degrade. It's also nice because he posted it all on a geneology site so all family members can view them even though we live in scattered places.

Broomhandle said...

Actually the Sears portrait packages were great deals. You just had to know how to say no to the add-one.

Broomhandle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EMD said...

Olan Mills FTW.

Erika said...

People are still getting family pictures taken by photographers, just not in a Sears studio. I can't be the only one who knows half a dozen Moms With Cameras who take mediocre-to-decent pics of their friends' families frolicking in the park or at the beach for a couple hundred bucks. And people do get those printed and hang them in their houses--in artful Pinterest-inspired arrangements.

Jana said...

We occasionally go to JC Penney's studio for pictures, and they turn out lovely, and at $3.99/sheet, it's a nice deal. Way cheaper than the $100 sitting fee + high print fees individual photographers charge. A lot of my friends are getting family pictures taken this way, often in naturalistic settings that don't have a studio feel.

I think JCP still does OK business with the photography, or at least it feels that way. Lots of families around when we go for our appointments.

As for Wal-Mart, you hardly knew they even had a photography studio. They never advertised it in their circulars that I saw, and it was tucked in an out-of-the-way corner at ours.

Robin said...

The poll lacks my reaction: "Sears is still in business?"