Silker bidding farewell to studio

FAIRMONT – The original plan was to sell his studio on Highway 15 and downsize the business, but one thing led to another, and now professional photographer Jeff Silker will soon be dropping that title in exchange for another.

“It’s time for a change,” said Silker, a local veteran in the photography industry.

In exchange for the life he has known in his hometown of Fairmont, Silker is moving out west to start a career in asbestos abatement. He has family in Colorado with a successful business in the field, and he’ll be working with them, likely in Salt Lake City.

His reason for leaving photography is the same reason so many people are entering it.

“Everyone has a camera; everyone’s a photographer,” he said.

He sold his building to Rutland Township, which plans to use it for a town hall and storage, according to township chairwoman Billeye Rabbe. He also auctioned off his equipment, and his home is on the market.

To accommodate customers calling him for appointments, Silker is turning them over to someone he trusts: his former employee, friend and competition, Steve Seifried, who owns Seifried Portrait Design in downtown Fairmont. Seifried worked for Silker from 1989-1994, until he opened his own studio.

Silker’s start in the profession began in the early 1980s, first working for his uncle in Minneapolis and then returning to Fairmont to launch his own business.

Initially, he used a view camera and large-cut sheet film. Over time, the film quality improved, as did the equipment, until one day, film became a thing of the past.

The digital age worked in his favor for probably about 10 years, Silker said, “and then consumer cameras got better and better, and now phone cameras are good.”

But even with today’s nearly fool-proof technology, there’s more to taking a good picture than clicking a button, he believes.

Both Silker and Seifried agreed, a huge part of the job is about making their subjects feel comfortable with a camera pointed at them, and effectively instructing them in order to get the desired results.

“Seventy percent of what we do is working well with people,” Seifried said.

There are also benefits, they pointed out, to knowing the technical aspects of photography, like understanding all the functions of the camera itself, plus how to best frame a shot, and what the best lighting and angles are, just for starters.

“We know why we got what we got, and we can do it again,” Seifried said, as opposed to an amateur who takes 500 photos in hopes of getting a few good shots.

The two exchanged horror stories of brides calling them at the last minute, because a friend who was going to take the wedding pictures had backed out, or their uncle lost the memory card with all their photos on it, or the image quality was just disappointing in general.

“People have the best intentions, but …” Seifried said, trailing off.

“Often they get nervous,” Silker said. “Heck, the first 10 years I was scared to death when I shot a wedding.”

He readily acknowledged photography is something he loves, and something he’ll miss, but he is excited to try something new.

For the next month, his former customers can contact him at (507) 236-2784 to have previously shot photo sessions put on disc for a small fee. In the future, calls to that business number will be forwarded to Seifried Portrait Design.

“They can expect the same results, or better,” Seifried said, tongue in cheek.

“Way better,” Silker added, laughing.