“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.” Henri Cartier Bresson
“It’s not just about snapping the picture; it’s about capturing the moment, the history.” Soozie Sundlun
Soozie Sundlun is the president of East Greenwich Photo on Main Street. She has been a fixture on Main Street, in one location or another, for almost forty years.
In 1976, Soozie opened a retail camera store and film-processing center at 241 Main Street, which is now “Fat Bellys”. Back then, people were still buying “film” cameras and returning the exposed film to the lab in the shop for developing.
Soozie learned the art of photography by selling cameras. She believed that if she was going to sell them, she needed to know how they worked; and if she was going to be advising people on how to take pictures, she had to find out how to take good ones.
She taught herself by taking photos of her children and the other children in the neighborhood. She would write down the settings she used, as well as the light and other important conditions, and then keep track of what worked with what cameras and in what conditions. Over time, through trial and error, she became a skilled photographer.
Although the first “digital” camera was invented in 1975 by Eastman Kodak, a true “consumer-targeted” model wasn’t developed until 1988. Film-processing reached it peak in the mid 1980s. With rapid improvements, the “digital revolution” over-took photography and by the mid-1990s, Soozie shuttered the film processing part of the business and focused her energies on the studio.
I asked her about her first camera. It was a Nikon F 35 mm. With that, and later 35mm cameras, Soozie entered the world of professional photography, working in her studio, and “in the field”. Her first wedding job was for a friend, in the backyard. Her work started getting noticed; and she was asked to take photos at the Warwick Music Tent, a job that she kept for 14 years until the tent closed. One of her first, and favorite celebrities she photographed was Bon Jovi. She remembers him as a very kind and considerate man. She photographed President Clinton while he was attending a town hall meeting at Channel 10; and of course, after she married Bruce Sundlun, who became Governor of Rhode Island, she had the opportunity to meet and photograph many national and international political figures.
When I asked Soozie how she felt about digital photography, having cut her professional teeth on film, she surprised me by saying that she loved it. She explained that it is much more relaxing because she is able to take “test” shots, make any necessary adjustments, and then complete the assignment with confidence. She also loves Photoshop, referring to it as “a new-age dark room”. She did say that people could become “lazy” with it, depending on the software to “fix” any mistakes instead of doing what it takes to create a great photograph.
Today, most of her business is in the studio and on location. She also can restore old photos, transfer old home movies to DVD, and even photoshop old pictures.
If experience, quality, and artisanship are important to you, East Greenwich Photo is really the only choice.