With “The Big Picture,” co-owners Linda Dugan and David Conklin were already offering customers a convenient all-in-one stop shop for professional photography, printmaking and custom …
With “The Big Picture,” co-owners Linda Dugan and David Conklin were already offering customers a convenient all-in-one stop shop for professional photography, printmaking and custom framing, but they knew their previous walk-up address was an obstacle to attracting foot traffic straight off the street.
Fortunately, the new owner of the building their business already called home was able to offer them a storefront that passersby can actually see, at eye level, as they’re walking and driving through downtown Port Townsend.
“People know this place just by the floor,” Dugan laughed, as she gestured to the vintage linoleum flooring, with its vivid red and harvest gold tiles, in her and Conklin’s shared studio at 823 Washington St. “There’s this one guy in town who knows all sorts of history about this space. He told us the flooring was originally installed in 1949, and said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t mess it up.”
Dugan sees the eye-catching flooring as a natural complement to the assortment of frame samples she has on display, and she and Conklin even repainted the walls to ensure both the frames and the floor would “really pop.”
Between the flooring and the street-level location, Conklin said, “We’re hugely visible now, in a way that we simply weren’t before. We were completely invisible to the public in our previous space, but now, we must be averaging a few new potential clients each day, because they see things in our window and can just duck in to take a look.”
Perhaps even more beneficial to their business than the colors of the flooring is the amount of floorspace they’ve gained, since the co-owners of the Big Picture upgraded to 1,400 square feet in their current ground-floor address, roughly twice the combined space they shared in their previous location.
This gain has allowed them to divide that square footage into thirds, with the third facing the street serving as a display space for Dugan’s framing options, visible through the storefront window, while the middle third serves as Conklin’s photography studio, and the final third tucked away in back houses Conklin’s photo processing computers and printing equipment.
This is not the Big Picture’s first move within town, since its previous addresses also include upstairs spot near Sirens and What’s Cookin’ on Water Street, not are either Dugan nor Conklin any sort of novices in their respective fields, since both bring decades of experience in photography to their shared business, and Dugan got her start in framing prior to the current century.
“I was already working with my dad’s cast-off photography equipment when I was 10,” said Conklin, whose father served as the first photo editor for the Peace Corps. “By the time I was 16, I was shooting weddings professionally. There was never any question what I’d be doing for a living.”
Dugan was around the same age as Conklin when she also caught the photo bug from a family member — her sister and brother-in-law were professional photographers — and it appealed to her finely tuned sense of detail, in addition to capitalizing upon her fine motor skills.
A rare point of contrast between Dugan and Conklin is their feelings toward digital photography.
By her own admission, Dugan sort of fell into framing by chance in 1997, when she was called upon to fill in. But she freely concedes that she would not have enjoyed the transition from film cameras, and she doesn’t enjoy sitting in front of computers
By contrast, Conklin has embraced the new media.
“Film is dead, at least to me,” Conklin laughed, before shaking his head and adding, “No, don’t say that. Let’s say instead that digital has so far surpassed film that, unless you simply like the process, even cheap digital cameras are better than using 35-millimeter film. Which is not to say that we don’t still scan film here on occasion.”
Conklin has been a professional photographer since 1980, but he’s made sure to move forward with the times, to ensure the quality of his color-accurate reproduction and printing.
To that end, the Big Picture recently installed a large-format Canon pigment ink printer, which allows Conklin to offer prints up to 44 inches wide on various materials, including canvas, in addition to his editorial, commercial and portrait work.
In both cases, the co-owners of the Big Picture say their backgrounds have served them well, even as they’ve had to adapt.
While Dugan’s expertise as a professional framer of 23 years includes conservation framing techniques, canvas stretching, framing fiber art and needlework, and shadowbox object framing, she attributes much of her success to a far simpler technique.
“It all comes down to listening,” Dugan said. “When you’re talking with a client, you need to determine if the artwork being framed is decorative or significant. Do you just want to dress up a space, or is this something with family history? I often take cues from the colors clients wear, and check whether the piece is being hung in a home or an office. There’s never just one option, and people haven’t always considered all the options.”
Dugan seeks to allay clients’ budget concerns as she shows them her selection of framing options, which include a variety of glass options, from clear and non-glare to museum glass, the latter of which is usually covered with fingerprints in her sample display, “because people always touch it after they ask, ‘Is there any glass in that frame?’”
As for Conklin, what he’s learned from his years of photography has reaffirmed one of his father’s first lessons, which is the value of being unobtrusive while you’re shooting photos.
“When you’re a nondescript observer who nobody notices, you can capture a scene without influencing it,” Conklin said. “And as an observer, it’s your job to factor in the light and composition. Beyond that, don’t be afraid to experiment.”
Conklin considers printing more of a “craft” than an “art form,” because of the number of necessary steps involved, but he also touted the value of experimentation in that field, and cited his years in darkrooms working with film, as furnishing him with the skills to create the visual effects he’s looking for in digital prints.
Both co-owners of the Big Picture invite the public to check out samples of their respective work online, Dugan at lindatheframer.com, and Conklin at conklinphoto.com.
And if you happen to be near the Alchemy Bistro and Wine Bar, or the Port Townsend Antique Mall, you can always swing by the Big Picture on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They’re also available by appointment, or by phone at 360-344-3383.