When Bangor Photo closed last June, area photographers were left without a local option for quality, professional photo printing. And after years of framing those Bangor Photo prints, the owners of School Street Picture Framing saw a sudden need.
“It really made a gap,” said artist Adam Perkins, who runs the business with his father, Ed. “They were really the only ones around that were doing what they were doing. We saw an opportunity.”
Maybe, too, a necessity.
“They were sending so much work over here that we figured in order to keep that momentum, we had to get [into] printing,” Adam said.
Fortunately, printing and framing seemed like an obvious match. First, School Street Picture Framing had to expand its shop by about a third last fall. Next came the high-quality large-format printers. But although this father-son team has nearly 40 combined years of framing experience, the Perkinses were not printers.
That’s why they hired professional photographer and long-time customer Lori Davis.
“They always went out of their way to accommodate me and help me figure out the best way to present my photography [in] an economical way, a professional way,” said Davis. “I trusted them, and I respected them.”
With her slow season approaching, it was the right time for her to work part time. Everything fell into place, and Davis began educating her employers about printing — and learning about framing from them.
“I don’t know who’s learned more from whom,” she said. “It’s really been very beneficial for both parties.”
On Lori’s recommendation, the company has signed with Pro Digital Gear in Connecticut and is now the only authorized dealer in Maine for Epson wide-format printers, ink for those printers, paper, and supplies. In the new print shop are an Epson Pro Stylus 4900, which is a very large desktop model, and the free-standing Epson 9900. The latter prints on paper or canvas up to 44 inches wide, and on rolls up to 100 feet.
The Epsons are essentially massive inkjet printers, but the inks are dramatically different. Commonly referred to as gicleé inks, they reflect light evenly for increased color vibrancy, and they last a long time. Where a print from a typical desktop inkjet printer can noticeably fade in just a few months, the polymer-based inks in these units will last 80-100 years (some sources estimate 125 years). The result: The kind of high-quality, long-lasting, professional results that any photographer or artist will trust.
To showcase just what they can do, the Perkinses have set up a gallery in the expanded shop. The first thing visitors see when they walk through the door are many of Davis’ stunning photo prints, some of Adam’s alluring art prints, and art prints by long-time BDN outdoor artist Tom Hennessey.
From an art standpoint, the shop can now do it all. “Struggling artists” — of which Adam says he is one — can have their work photographed, properly color-matched, reproduced in quality fashion on photographic papers, fine-art papers, and canvas, and professionally framed with more than 3,000 in-store frame samples, or with others available through the shop’s distributors.
It has been quite an evolution for the company. After working as a carpenter nearly 30 years ago when he first came to town, Ed Perkins was laid off after a few months and went job hunting. He saw an ad in the Bangor Daily News for a picture framer.
“I didn’t know there was such a thing,” he recalled. “I didn’t even know there was a place to go to get picture framing done.”
He worked for W.C. Weatherbee & Sons for 13½ years and then 4½ years at Picture This. When he left there in 2002, he opened his own shop.
“We’ve been doing great, and business has grown every year,” he said. “I’ve kind of slowed down a little bit; I’m getting towards retirement age, so I don’t work full days.”
Adam started in art school in Portland before he realized he’d likely never pay off his school debt with his art. After helping his father out during busy times, he finally came aboard full time 8½ years ago.
The shop, located a few doors down from the Brewer Public Library on School Street, is a place where, Adam says, customers can bring in their work and know it won’t be sent away to be handled by strangers. Everything is done right there, from printing to framing — and always with an eye on quality. And for a company that has always been conservation-oriented, that tradition continues with the printing.
“We try to do everything to preserve your artwork for the next generation, so if we print a photo, we want it around in a hundred years,” Adam said. “All the materials that come into contact with the artwork are archival, [and it’s] the same thing with the ink and the paper. It’s all about high quality archival.”
Adam stressed that they’re still very sorry that Bangor Photo closed, but they’re pleased to pick up the mantle.
“We never would have done [this] if Bangor Photo had stayed in business,” he said. “We had such a great working relationship with them, and we would have never done anything to compete with them. We did the framing, they did the printing; it was a good meld.”
Now, School Street Picture Framing is doing both. Learn more at SchoolStreetPictureFraming.com.