PORTLAND, Maine — Peter Doe, 65, the quirky owner of the state’s last independent professional photography and darkroom store, Photo Market, has died.
Doe’s famously cramped shop on Forest Avenue has catered to Maine’s photographers for more than 35 years. Since opening in the 1980s, he kept it stuffed tight with cameras, frames, bags, straps, darkroom supplies, tripods, studio lights — and stacks of vintage equipment threatening to topple over and possibly crush unsuspecting shutterbugs.
“Yes, he had a definite problem with clutter,” said Michael Eric Berube, who worked at the store for 12 years. “Yes, he could come across as too blunt or gruff a lot of the time, but I promise you, Peter genuinely very much cared about people and loved the photography community.”
Doe died Wednesday at Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland, according to an online obituary. He was born in Fort Fairfield and graduated from Bonny Eagle High School in 1973, where he was a member of the photography club. Doe went on to earn a photography degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1977 and opened his iconic Portland store at Woodfords Corner in 1986. He later moved it to a larger space a few blocks west, on Forest Avenue.
“His stores were always an experience but if you were looking for a particular filter, chemical, or sync cord, he probably had it — along with just about anything else photographic you could think of,” said Jack Milton, retired Portland Press Herald photographer. “And long before eBay or Craigslist, Peter was your best bet to sell or buy used equipment. I’m sorry to hear this news.”
Berube remembers Doe being generous about buying used, and possibly useless, equipment.
“I saw him pay folks who had old gear far more than it was worth, knowing that he’d likely never sell it again, in order to help them out,” he said, “most of which is likely still in a box out back.”
Berube also recalls Doe’s personal generosity.
“Peter was a true friend to me when I needed help,” he said. “I was all stressed out at work, about making the mortgage, at one particularly tight spot in the past. He simply pulled out a bunch of $100 bills and told me to pay the mortgage — and then allowed me to pay him back steadily over a long time with no mention of it again.”
Reached by phone in the early stages of the pandemic in April, Doe was sanguine about doing curbside business, only.
“It’s not very busy but we have had a half-a-dozen phone calls in the last half hour,” he said. “We’re still doing quite a bit of film developing. We’re doing just fine and trying to ignore the drama.”
Southern Maine wedding and event photographer Lisa Elizabeth said Doe was especially helpful when she first got into photography.
“I would call him from the darkroom and ask him questions and he would walk me through whatever issue I was having,” Elizabeth said. “He was a kind and generous man, who always asked how you were doing and how your kids were. I will remember Peter Doe with a smile on my face.”
Doe’s life celebration will be private but condolences and memories can be shared at Advantage Funeral Home’s website.