Photographer Captures Life's Events, Memories
Verona photographer explains changes in the business over 25 years.
For 25 years Gabelli Studio and its photographers have been capturing some of the most significant moments in the lives of people in and around Verona.
From their first location on Bloomfield Avenue to their current location at 250 Pompton Turnpike, Gabelli boasts an impressive portfolio and a small town, boutique atmosphere that keeps people coming back.
Photographer and studio manager Jim Beckner has worked with Gabelli for years, through the tenure of the studio’s founder Gene Gabelli to the current ownership of John C. Bacolo.
Beckner, 54, began work as a professional photographer in the late ‘70s, doing commercial photography and portraits, and he started working weddings, bar mitzvahs and other events regularly in the mid ‘80s.
He’s seen the technological side of the industry change from analog to digital, from a darkroom to PhotoShop and from disposable camera to cell phone camera, but he’s still as busy as ever.
“We have a well-educated clientele,” Beckner said. “They know you can’t capture certain moments on an iPhone.”
In spite of the changing times, people still know professional photography when they see it, and they know when they need it — be it an engagement party, a wedding, a baby shower or a sweet 16, Beckner and his constituents are working hard and working often.
Do you miss developing film in a dark room?
It’s an old school process. I miss it. I used to have a dark room at Middlesex County College. After that, I made a dark room in my house... Now it's a storage room.
How would you describe the experience your clients get when they come into Gabelli?
We’re a smaller studio. We’re more of a hometown, boutique-like studio. Some of our peers are bigger and they do more events – it’s not such a personal process.
Here, if you were getting married, you would bring your fiancé in and you’d meet with me, more than likely I would be the photographer at your wedding. We consider it a bit more of a one on one kind of basis.
In other words, if you hire me, I’ll be at your engagement party, I’ll show up at your wedding. I might bring a crew with a videographer and another photographer, but it’s a little bit more of a personal approach to the business.
How many events do you think you’ve done over your career?
Maybe 1,000. I work 40–50 hours a week. It could be more depending on the week. Sometimes we’re in Tuesday and Wednesday 10-12 hours a day doing post-production.
A lot of our business is a hometown-type feel, so we may get a sister or a brother or a cousin, a friend from the bridal party. Referrals are our best friend. If you like what we do for you, you may send other people to us.
What the most memorable event you’ve done?
There’s quite a few. I don’t know. We do quite a bit of big events where we photograph people in the limelight, stars. So probably events where you get to be behind the scenes and see what’s going on at a certain event. I think the best events are the ones that reflect the most emotion.
We do the Friar’s Club events and they’re always fun and they’re always star-studded. It’s almost like an out-of-body experience. It’s funny to see the way some people act.
What’s the one photo over your career that you’re most proud of?
If I had to pick one picture… I don’t know, I have to think about that. Probably, if I had to pick something, probably something very early that inspired me. A lot of the stuff I don’t have unfortunately, because it was film or it was print that was damaged.
I go back that moment. So many of the photographs I’ve taken before I started doing events and weddings were some of the things that are cliché, like a sunset or something. Obviously, what I want to do when I show you a picture, be it a wedding picture or something else, is evoke some sort of feeling, a photograph that really captures the moment.
I don’t mean to be vague, but I just can’t put my finger on it. It would probably be one of my early photographs that inspired me to keep going. I have a lot.
Gabelli Studio is open 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Saturday. Contact them by sending a message through their website, gabellistudio.com, or by phone at (973) 239-2420.