by Matt Robert / above photo by Manda Rose
Patrick Sullivan and Mike Hendrickson are newer entrants into this growing Worcester milieu. Together they run the Worcester Photo Studios, a solid, grassroots business plan that embraces an elaborate nexus of local groups of various political, social and artistic endeavors.
Housed in an inauspicious former factory at 90 May St., the Worcester Photo Studios is neither E.B. Luce nor Fotomat. What they’ve built is a comprehensive go-to for all things photographic.
Are you a photographer, or a model in need of a portfolio or some experience? Come on in! Are you a photographer looking to build a roster of models? Come on in! Are you in a band that needs promo shots? Come on in! A hair stylist or makeup designer looking to get into weddings or model shoots? Come on in! Want to learn the ABC’s of photography in a classroom setting?
Well, you get the idea.
“The original point,” says Sullivan, was after graduating from Assabet Valley Technical School in Marlborough about a decade ago, he and Hendrickson wanted to couple their photography talents and descend upon the wedding market. To do so, they needed a studio, but studio space is expensive.
One thing led to another, explains Sullivan, and “it worked out that it made sense to get a bigger place with members to help delineate the costs between everybody.” In June 2011, they moved into the location that they’re in now—“the biggest photo studio in New England—and got a lot of members to be a part of it.”
“Ten-thousand square feet of fun; we can’t fi nd anyone bigger on the eastern seaboard,” says Hendrickson,” noting that the studio rosters approximately 300 photographers with specializations that cover the gamut of shooting needs from product shooting to modeling to live events, like concerts and weddings, indoor and outdoor, micro and macro… .
Well, you get the idea.
“Originally,” Sullivan says, Worcester Photo Studios was “just a place to share space,” but it “has now become sort of the focal point for photography for the whole area.”
The studio consists of, among other things, a series of “product shooting rooms and a darkroom,” adds Hendrickson, who says that they’re “also going to be building a cyclorama,” a popular type of shooting area where “the wall meets the floor in a nice slow curve, so it looks like a permanent backdrop” with no shadows demarking the wall-floor junction.
For a monthly charge plus a one-time fee, photographers can join the studio, which provides access to the facilities, which include rooms, each constructed to create a unique vibe, as well as things like lighting gear, background screens, and computers for digital-film processing.
More than that—they point out—models, photographers and stylists get to take part in the quarterly event, The Great Model Shoot, which Sullivan says is for those who have never modeled before but want to try it out and for photographers who are nervous about working with models or who have worked with models before but find it hard to arrange their own shoots, and stylists who want to get behind-the-scenes experience doing hair and makeup for photo shoot models.”
For $20, models can work with up to 60 or 70 photographers and leave with photos from each one.
“It’s a great stepping stone for everyone,” says Hendrickson. “We’ve had girls go on to get some great modeling contracts. One of them is even in Tokyo right now.”
“We actually have three girls who have ended up going on to great modeling careers after they never did modeling in their life until they came to one of our events,” adds Sullivan.
And for $40, photographers get to develop skills, meet models and stylists, and generate work, all in a laid-back atmosphere, where, unlike similar shoots that Hendrickson and Sullivan once attended, you can touch the equipment, shoot at your desired settings, and, essentially eschew the assembly-line method favored by other studios. Best of all, you can meet and talk the craft with photographers from all over.
“There are people who come and don’t ever take pictures. They want to see what’s going on. They say, ‘Oh, Hey! How did you do that?’” says Sullivan.
Photographers, Hendrickson says, can be found trading lenses and sharing cameras.
According to Sullivan, this way of conducting business has made the studio a destination for models and photographers, many of whom arrive from places like Maine, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire; likewise the events have become very popular with hair and makeup artists. “We have five girls that drive from Biddeford, Maine, every month,” says Sullivan.
Hendrickson says the building is also available for rental for use as an art gallery or for events like “yoga demonstrations or even a book club.” VegWorcester and the Free School are two nonprofits that have made use of the space recently, they say.
“We’re interested in art, community-type things,” says Sullivan. “We’re not trying to use it as a giant profit center and stick anybody in it for anything. We want to keep it somewhat oriented to sort of what we do.”
By extension, the Worcester Photo Studio takes part in the global initiative called Help Portrait, which “helps less fortunate people acquire a Christmas/ holiday portrait.” The ambitious project, which will take place on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the South High School gym, provides a series of booths equipped with photographers and a staff of stylists, whereby – for no cost – an individual, couple, or family can show up, have a portrait taken, and “walk out with a print in your hand, in a paper frame, and the digital file,” according to Sullivan.
Like the laid-back approach to their own studio, Hendrickson says they feel that the Help Portrait session “shouldn’t be a scary experience for anyone. It should be nice and easy.” To this end, he says, “We’ll have someone walking you through it.”