25 years of photos

TaLeiza Calloway

Photo shop keeps old-fashioned photography alive in Kent

Matt Keffer of Sage Design Group Inc. and Judith Pratt, owner of The Photo Shop by Judith, work together at their location in Kent. Keffer and Pratt recently merged their businesses together.

Daniel Owen | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

The light blue brick shop with gold letters faces North Water Street. In the front windows, pictures and frames look at passersby, seemingly inviting them to come in.

It is simply named The Photo Shop by Judith.

Pursuing passion

Forty-six-year-old Judith Pratt has lived in Kent for 12 years, and photography has always been her passion.

A professional wedding photographer, she captured her first wedding on film in 1982. Since then, she has saved every negative from pictures she has taken in a binder. Each page of negatives has a date on it so she can remember when she took the picture and so she can reprint them at any time, she said.

In 1986, Pratt began work at the News and Photo Shop on Main Street, where she was manager of the photo lab. She enjoyed working there, she said, because she was able to do what she loves. “I like working in the lab more than shooting,” Pratt said.

The next step

When the News and Photo Shop decided to close its lab, Pratt decided to start her own photography business.

“The shop was closing, and I had to process my own film. I felt like I had no other choice,” she said.

In 2004, The Photo Shop by Judith officially opened. Some of the services it provides include film processing, digital processing, photo restoration and passport photos. It also sells frames and mats.

Though Pratt is aware of the rise of digital technology and does digital processing, her shop focuses more on the traditional film processing, she said.

Pratt owns a digital camera and said the switch from film to digital has been comfortable for her. Nevertheless, she admits it is sad to think traditional film processing may die out.

“With digital taking over, times are changing,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer film processing will be needed.”

Community collaboration

Even from its opening in 2004, The Photo Shop has never had a problem adapting to the community and finding customers. Pratt said all her customers from the News and Photo Shop transferred. It was a seamless transition, she said.

In terms of community involvement, The Photo Shop also helps photography students at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent. Photography teacher Mike McClure said he and his students have worked with Pratt for 10 years.

“She helps by providing film and developing color film,” he said. “She’s a custom color lab in a town that would not normally have one.”

McClure explained they have a black-and-white dark room at the high school but can’t afford to have a color lab. Being able to go to the Photo Shop “gives students finer control of their work,” he said.

“She’s our color dark room,” McClure said.

New horizons

In October 2006, Pratt teamed up with Matt Keffer, owner of a graphic design company called Sage Design, Inc., to launch Sketch studio. They did it because studios are rare in the area, she said.

“When we started Sketch, we did it because we didn’t see anything like this in the community,” Keffer said.

Because of the similarities between Keffer and Pratt’s individual businesses, they decided the studio would be a way to promote mutual improvement. Combining the graphic design capabilities of Sage Design, Inc. with Pratt’s film processing capabilities makes them a “one-stop shop,” Keffer said.

Keffer and Pratt believe the new studio will allow them to go on location and do product photography as well as more portrait photography.

Contact public affairs reporter TaLeiza Calloway at [email protected].