PhotoTek is back in business with a new look. Expect the same old-fashioned personalized service when you walk through the doors, as this service is powered by the same mission: to help customers preserve memories for future generations.
Paula Stebbins, co-owner of the business that has been a Lake Charles staple for 37 years, describes the interior and exterior changes as “subtle.” The damage provided “an opportunity” to create something new and fresh from the rubble.
“Some of our customers have said they’ve walked past our new building a few times because they were looking for the blue and red stripes,” Stebbins said. “The new black and white look is a tribute to early black and white photography. Sheena Franks designed it.
When Hurricane Laura blew through southwestern Louisiana and other states on August 27, 2020, it also blew through the glass facade of the PhotoTek building. The ceiling collapsed on the floor.
Stebbins couldn’t get out of her own driveway for two and a half weeks after the hurricane, she said.
When she did, and saw the devastation, she cried.
“We literally had to climb in and over debris,” she said.
She said she never considered closing. She was also in no position to consider a reopening.
“These two statements may not sound different, but they are,” she said. “I was worried we couldn’t reopen.”
For six weeks after the hurricane, PhotoTek – like many local businesses – had no power. For three months there was no internet. Blue tarps were stretched over heads and secured as well as possible and business resumed like “under a circus tent”, Stebbins said.
Construction was to begin during the rebuild on the day Ida was to make landfall, possibly in Lake Charles.
Now the rebuild is complete except for some small interior changes. The past 18 months or so have left Stebbins with a renewed appreciation for his staff, calling them “true soldiers.”
“They stepped up and did whatever it took,” she said. “I think I’m more dependent on them now than I was and that’s a good thing.”
Along with a new look and a new appreciation for staff, Stebbins and co-owner Lynn Broussard now have a plan in place in case of “next time.”
The question “Where will your photos be in 50 years?” is as relevant today as when PhotoTek first opened in 1985.
People are taking more and more photos and videos with phone cameras, and phone cameras are getting better and better, but Stebbins worries that great photos aren’t developed, preserved, or put on disc and risk being destroyed or forgotten. What can be done with photographs using various software and production techniques continues to change.
“Digital has made so many things possible,” Stebbins said. “Technology continues to evolve. We make sure our customers are comfortable picking up prints from their phone or camera, or dropping off prints to produce on just about any material. We have photo gifts and invitations. We carry out the video transfer of old films and homemade cassettes. We still do photo restoration, custom framing and have a large format scanner. We have refreshed our image, but nothing has changed in the way we serve our customers or our services.