Going Digital On The Seacoast

As Photography Goes High-tech,
One Hampton Business Is Following Suit

By Colleen Lent

Hampton Union, Tuesday, March 16, 2004

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Paul LeRoux & Susan Ayers of "Fame to Frame" in Hampton. [Photo by Jackie Ricciardi]

HAMPTON - An international slogan is resounding in the United States and on the Seacoast: Goodbye analog, and hello digital cameras.

According to an online Digital Photography Review article, digital camera sales for 2003 were estimated at 50 million units. While Europe contributes to 36 percent of the total, digital camera sales rose by an estimated 48 percent in the United States. Meanwhile, in January 2004, Eastman Kodak announced plans to stop selling re-loadable 35mm film cameras in the United States, Canada, and Europe, allowing the company to focus on digital imaging for consumer, health, and commercial markets.

On the local front, Paul A. LeRoux Jr. tried a new professional hat on for size in late December 2003, opening Fame to Frame in Hampton, offering custom framing and digital imaging services and products.

"It's something that goes back 30 to 40 years," LeRoux said. "The business has always intrigued me."

LeRoux doesn't profess to be a Jacob Riis, Anne Geddes, or Ansel Adams. Rather, he describes himself as a longtime Seacoast professional who enjoys the three P's - people, places, and photographs.

"My strength has always been the retail industry," LeRoux said. Crunching numbers for nearly 25 years allowed him a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the commercial world. "I've had the opportunity to watch that happen," he said.

In his spare time, LeRoux captures vignettes of his family, friends, and surroundings on film.

"I think the fact that I have a picture of my life and the people in it is why I'm so infatuated with photography," LeRoux said. "It's the ability to appreciate and collect history - my personal history."

Often, the most ordinary sight such as a key on a fence post - something the average person would dismiss - catches his eye. While LeRoux often packs his camera for excursions to the Caribbean, Australia, Canada, and Hawaii, he said there is no need to travel far for a meaningful photograph.

"Actually, New England is a great place to be," he said, citing the abundance of oceans, fields and fences, with beauty quietly beckoning to be preserved in a tangible medium.

Opening "Fame to Frame" was not based solely on LeRoux's visual passion. The new store will give his professional photographer son-in-law, Waide Gosselin, an opportunity to make photography a full-time career. In turn, LeRoux said Gosselin will offer technical expertise and portraits to customers. The new business has also allowed Susan Ayers, the store's secretary and LeRoux's friend, to re-enter the work force after 15 years of raising children.

As LeRoux and Ayers provide a tour of the new 2,100-square-foot store, there are a few 35mm cameras on display, a visible reminder of the tailspin of the traditional and demand for the digital.

"It will certainly become the largest part of the market," LeRoux said. The store will offer prints, produced on Kodak paper, from any digital source. "We have the printers, the inks, the papers," he said.

While consumer software programs are allowing the downloading and printing of photo files at home, LeRoux is confident consumers will return to outsourcing just as they once did with 35mm film.

"People are going to get tired of that - developing their own," he said. Also, while, JPEG, TIF, and DPI may be part of the IT professional and Generation X vocabularies, many others are petrified of computers.

In addition, LeRoux said "Fame to Frame" hopes to capture new business from professionals reluctant to spend their limited leisure time in front of the computer to process digital photos. The store is also installing a Kodak Picture Maker, offering customers a self-serve option, reducing wear and tear on home printers and eliminating photo paper purchases.

Digital photography offers a host of advantages to analog, according to LeRoux. It allows manipulation, reduces film expense, and provides instantaneous photos for printing and electronic sharing. On the other hand, LeRoux said many critics say it doesn't have the quality of 35mm film, resulting in reduced clarity and archival longevity. Yet, LeRoux says digital technology is evolving to provide better resolution and durability.

In 2002, Kodak introduced its Perfect Touch, which individually scans and digitally processes each picture, removing dark shadows and improving sharpness and contrast.

"It's more forgiving," LeRoux said, referring to digital technology.

Earlier this month, Kodak's Ultima Picture Paper with Colorlast snagged the only inkjet paper award at the International Stationery Press Association's annual competition in Frankfurt, Germany. When used with highgrade ink, Kodak says the photos on the new paper will last for more than 100 years without protection from the elements, including light, heat, humidity and ozone. LeRoux admits keeping abreast of all of the industry product developments is a formidable feat. He is thankful for his son-inlaw's expertise.

Kodak has snagged a spot as one of the top three front-runners in the digital camera market in the United States, China, and Europe, according to Forbes.com. Meanwhile, LeRoux, a Kodak retailer, is hoping to capture a big enough slice of the Seacoast consumer pie to provide a retirement cushion for himself and long-term livelihood for his son-in-law.

Owner: Paul A. LeRoux, Jr.
Address: 868 Lafayette Road,
Hampton -- Phone: 929-6266