DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) – After having a physical presence in Kewaunee County for more than 60 years, a local photography business recently made a difficult decision. Effective January 1, Harmann Studios has consolidated all of its operations at its De Pere location.
For John Harmann, capturing special moments dates back to his uncle, who started the business in a farmhouse closet in 1958.
In 1965 John’s father became a partner and the Harmann brothers opened their first studio in Algoma.
“My father and my uncle were very hard workers, very progressive, very connected to the community. I think back then, the more locations you had, the more business you could attract.
The growing family business attracted John in 1995, and it didn’t take long for him to realize he had made the right decision.
“I photographed a child in Luxembourg the first year of my return. The child sadly passed away and the mother gave me a hug and I said the game was over –” John gets emotional remembering that defining moment — “It’s hard to say, because it was, blessed to know that this is going to be my career for the rest of my life.
By 1996, Harmann Studios had five locations in northeast Wisconsin – Sturgeon Bay, Algoma, Kewaunee, Luxembourg, and De Pere. But around the mid-2000s, the industry began to change. Digital photography was becoming mainstream and just about every client suddenly wanted their photo shoot outdoors.
“It was a permanent solution that outdoor photography was going to take over,” Harmann said. “They wanted more variety of backgrounds, they wanted something different and unique in terms of lighting, location, something that’s just unique to that person.”
So Harmann Studios began to shut down their studios, one by one, and consolidate for efficiency.
On January 1, Luxembourg was the last to leave.
“It was hard to say it doesn’t make sense to do the interview, you only know 10% of my sessions or less. Most of them wanted to be outside, so I’m like, well, we can do it from De Pere.
Despite the changing landscape, Harmann Studios is coming off a banner year thanks to its many divisions, including schools and sports, church directories, commerce and its hallmark: family portraits.
And while there’s sadness in leaving small towns, Harmann says it’s nice to have his 20 employees in one place.
“What’s going on with our customers and how can we make it better for them, and basically be all the time, and this is an opportunity here for us to all be together.”
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