DOVER — After nearly 62 years of capturing memories, Young’s Studio on Loockerman Street is closing its doors for good.
Eric Young, a third-generation photographer and current owner of the studio, has decided it’s time to end his parents’ legacy after the passing of his father last winter.
“We lost my dad, and it’s hard when a third of the our team is gone, it’s hard to continue as we used to,” Mr. Young said. “I think my days in photography are coming to an end, and it’s time for a career change.”The late Ross Young on the job at Wesley College in the late 1950s. (Submitted photo/Young’s Studio)[/caption]
The Young family has been in photography for more than a century, starting in Oregon with Mr. Young’s paternal grandfather.
“It was around 1912 when my dad’s dad began photographing loggers in Oregon, and then in the 1920s my dad’s mom got into taking and developing photos, too,” Mr. Young said.
The hobby was passed down to Mr. Young’s father, Ross, who was raised around photography after his parents opened the first Young’s Studio in Lakeland, Florida, in 1936.
Seventeen years later, Ross married his wife, Lois, in 1953 and established a new Young’s Studio in downtown Dover in the same year. Since its founding, the studio has inhabited three different locations on Loockerman Street, the most recent since the early 1970s.
The business was run primarily by Ross, who took the photos, and Lois, who maintained the office and also retouched and colorized black and white photos with oil paints.
Lois came from a photography background as well, having worked as a professional photographer in her early 20s across the Middle Atlantic after learning the craft from her father.
A family tradition
Being around his family’s business throughout childhood, it was nearly inevitable that Mr. Young also would become passionate about photography.
“I’ve never been one for analytical studies, I’ve always been more creative,” he said. “I don’t know if I would have necessarily pursued photography but I definitely had an interest and was blessed to have an outlet for it.”
His upbringing gave Mr. Young a leg up on his peers who also were interested in photography.
“When I was in eighth grade, all the photographers for the yearbook at Smyrna High School were about to graduate and I already had some pretty decent skills built up so before I even went to high school, I was asked if I’d be interested in doing photography for the yearbook,” he said.
But photography still was just a hobby for most of high school and even several years following.
“I was brought up in the business but after graduation in 1982, I held a lot of photography side jobs until I shot my first wedding when I was 22,” Mr. Young said. “It was some time after then, in October of 1988, that I was asked to join and the three of us were quite the team.”
Since running the business as a trio, there have been many changes but none have had a stronger impact than new technology.
“The biggest change was when everything went digital. When digital came along, everything changed,” he said. “The traditional darkroom closed and a new one opened on your desk.”
Although the studio hesitated to embrace digital technology, Mr. Young said he can see the positives and negatives to digital technology.
“You used to have a limited number of takes to get the perfect shot and now you can take as many as you need, and you get the instant gratification of seeing how your photos turned out and you can keep the ones you like and delete the ones you don’t,” he said. “At the same time, it’s taken a lot of the art out of photography.”
Before digital, Mr. Young said everything about the photo had to be planned out before the photo was taken, but now, much of the work is done after the shutter clicks.
“It used to require more preparation and thought than it does now,” he said. “Everyone is a photographer now, which is great, but through photo contests I’ve judged it’s clear that in most of the photos, 80 percent of the work was done after the photo was taken, whether it be on (Adobe) Photoshop or another program.”
Although the studio reluctantly embraced digital photography seven years ago and has taken advantage of the free time generated from abandoning dark rooms, there is one thing Mr. Young refuses to transition — wedding photos.
“By the time digital came around, I had already refined my craft with film and weddings are especially important moments people want to capture, and I didn’t want to relearn what I already knew best and risk not producing the best products for my clients,” he said. “I know it’s cliché, but what’s the first thing besides family members and pets people worry about getting out of a burning house? It’s photos, especially wedding photos, and I have loved capturing those special memories for people to keep forever.”
But it’s more than just the experience of taking pictures for clients to hold onto as memories that Mr. Young has enjoyed for so long, it’s the interaction with his subjects.
“I really enjoy getting to know the people I work with to archive the unique moment they want to remember,” he said. “For instance at weddings, I go to all the rehearsals and get to know the whole party by name, and it makes a difference when you can add that personal touch of knowing people and calling them by their names when photographing them.”
Recently, the dynamic within the business has transformed; Mr. Young’s father began to spend more time away from the studio before his death last year and his mother now pitches in only when she is able, leaving much of the business on Mr. Young’s shoulders alone.
“It’s been an honor to capture people’s memories using the skills I’ve been able to acquire throughout my life,” Mr. Young said. “This isn’t the career for me anymore since I can no longer do it with the best team but I know there is something else I will enjoy doing.”
Since the switch to digital seven years ago, Young’s has stored all it’s files on CDs and is now making them available to the public before it closes for good in early June.
“We have thousands of files and want to make them available to the people they belong to,” Mr. Young said. “The full files will be available, not only the shots that were purchased.”
Wedding photos taken anytime since 1988 are also available. If you’re interested in obtaining your photos, call the studio at 734-2447 before stopping by.