June 25, 2009

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The SOPHA community
Amateur and professional photographers join Manchester studio

By Heidi Masek hmasek@hippopress.com

The storefront of Croteau Photography in a distinctive downtown Manchester building has quietly taken on a new role in the same industry.

The way the Studio of Photographic Arts (SOPHA) functions, it sounds like a nonprofit. It’s not, but owner Bud Thorpe frequently uses the word “community” when he talks about the place. SOPHA now has 39 member photographers, up from about six when they moved into 941 Elm St. near the end of 2008.

SOPHA offers studio rental, including use of lighting, props and a make-up room. They run classes geared to help people figure out what they can actually do with their fancy new digital cameras.

Professional members use SOPHA’s reception area/gallery for client meetings, and the $100 per month pro membership fee allows unlimited studio usage (depending on availability). There’s also a large format printing service.

The studio was busy with a set-up for a fashion advertisement shoot Thursday, June 18. On a recent weekend, 30 ballerinas were at SOPHA and around downtown for a member dance photographer’s shoot.

Thorpe calls himself “studio manager,” and everyone who helps out seems to be called “staff.” Interns come from local art and photography schools, including Boston University’s Center for Digital Arts in Waltham.

The first SOPHA members’ gallery show opening on April 30 collected 185 pounds of tuna for the New Hampshire Food Bank (it was their canned tuna month).

Gallery shows run for four or five weeks in their storefront space and are meant to show and sell member work, but are always tied to a charity, Thorpe said. Since SOPHA is about a photographic community, the shows should be tied to the larger community, he said. It’s “a very simple business practice ... don’t be greedy,” he said.

Their second show, “America,” opens Thursday, July 2, with a reception from 7 to 10 p.m., and is up through Aug. 1. Members were challenged to represent the theme without using an American flag. Thorpe stressed that it’s not meant to be unpatriotic — the purpose of the rule is to avoid cliché and force the photographers to think beyond the obvious. Those showing work are making donations to the New Hampshire World War II Veteran’s Memorial Fund; visitors can also donate at the reception.

Thorpe expects about 20 members to show about 100 photos; prints will probably start at $30.

SOPHA originally opened two years ago at 62 Elm St. in Manchester and included a lot of car photography. The partnership split, and Thorpe wanted to focus on SOPHA as a community in a more visible location. He saw an “opportunity that couldn’t be missed” when his friend Dan Croteau planned to close his studio. Croteau now works mainly in real estate, but is a SOPHA member and still meets clients there.

“The digital world presented some challenges” to portrait and wedding photographers because more and more people have access, Thorpe said.

Thorpe’s idea for dealing with that is to bring in the new photographers. SOPHA’s not a school — “It’s more like a community art center in the way we run our classes,” Thorpe said.

SOPHA runs four-night “KickStart Digital SLR,” “Intermediate Digital SLR” and “KickStart Photoshop” classes regularly ($199 for nonmembers, $159 for members).

Many enroll because they bought a digital SLR (single lens reflex) and want to know what all the buttons do. Thorpe said the class is a lot of fun to teach and he enjoys students’ “eureka moments.”

“We have a tremendous retention rate,” Thorpe said. Ninety-five percent take a second class.

Eric Arnold, of Hunt’s Photo in Manchester, has a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art. Finding “qualified instructors” with the “right personality” is a challenge, Thorpe said. Arnold teaches “Urban Landscapes” for SOPHA; the one-day workshop is rescheduled to June 28 because of rain.

Dave Dawson, also of MassArt, teaches one-day workshop “Dastardly Dames, Alternative Glamour” (July 26, $199 or $179 for members). “The Artistic Nude” is scheduled for July 12 ($249, or $199 for members).

While sunshine may work outside, indoor shots on digital cameras can be tricky (that’s an understatement in this reporter’s case).

Thorpe said the first way to address lighting issues is to learn to use the flash properly. SOPHA spends one evening of a four-night digital SLR class on this.

“There’s a lot people can do to improve the quality of their pictures,” Thorpe said.

SOPHA teaches studio lighting to those who want to take that a step farther. Studio lighting has “never been so approachable,” Thorpe said. That’s because with a digital camera the photographer can immediately see the result.

SOPHA has 6,000 square feet of first-floor and basement space — the upstairs was bricked off in 1945, Thorpe said. They use the bricked back alley and basement for shoots. The basement also stores props and is the home of T-shirt business, 603 Clothing. It also houses a darkroom.

“We’ve got a range of members with a range of photographic interests,” Thorpe said. Some have always shot in film, some are discovering for the first time because great film camera equipment can currently be had for very little money, he said. 

Thorpe is a self-taught photographer, with undergraduate work in infectious disease. After 25 years in paramedics, he still works as a paramedic one day per week in Townsend, Mass. — “People call during the worst moments of their life,” Thorpe said of that job.

Thorpe mainly shoots portraits, families, frequently corporate or executive portraits and some weddings.

There’s a number of wedding photographers at SOPHA in all price ranges, Thorpe said. Others use the studio for product photography, advertising and portraits. Members come from Manchester and father afield, including Keene and Portsmouth.


If you go
What: “America” members’ gallery show reception
Where: Studio of Photographic Arts (SOPHA), 941 Elm St., Manchester
When: Thursday, July 2, from 7 to 10 p.m.
Charity: Donate to the NH World War II Veterans Memorial Fund at the reception.
Contact: 584-1492, www.thesopha.com


6/18/2009 Manchester and Concord host gallery nights June 25

6/11/2009 Art out in the open
6/4/2009 Keeping jobs
5/28/2009 Monastary and Concord Arts Market return
5/21/2009 Her own path
5/14/2009 Nine public artworks for Nashua?
5/7/2009 Indoor and outdoor Mother's Day ideas
4/30/2009 SOPHA members show off to help Food Bank
4/23/2009 Visit the Currier for free during school vacation
4/16/2009 Colleges show off around the state
4/9/2009 Artist hotline pilot program launches
4/2/2009 Cause for soldiers
3/26/2009 Can art spider link NH?
3/19/2009 Group art shows open this week
3/12/2009 Earth, animals and learning to draw
3/5/2009 Where curiosity can lead
2/26/2009 Rockin' the art degree
2/19/2009 Where the art came from
2/12/2009 Get ready for free admission at Currier
2/5/2009 Pottery served with soup
1/29/2009 Wine and desire
1/22/2009 Art for your Valentine
1/15/2009 NHAA shows off at Currier
1/8/2009 Art on the airwaves in Nashua
1/1/2009 Learn to paint or draw
12/25/2008 Arts in 2008
12/18/2008 Conserving New Hampshire art with a moose
12/11/2008 What is it?
12/4/2008 New show openings and holiday fine craft offerings
11/27/2008 New shows and new lecutures
11/20/2008 Find out about 100 artists at Salmon Falls open house11/13/2008 A Warhol film, and Dean Spiilotes at the center
11/6/2008 A wealth of gallery openings
10/30/2008 Squeaky wheel
10/23/2008 Be surrounded by art making10/16/2008 Receptions and open studios everywhere
10/9/2008 Copyright blues
10/2/2008 Andres Institute at 10 years
9/25/2008 Andy Warhol's world leaders
9/18/2008Local color
9/11/2008Local color
9/4/2008 A weekend of fests
8/28/2008 Currier ventures into pop art
8/21/2008 Expert help on a craft project
8/14/2008 Great outdoors
8/7/2008 Local color
7/31/2008 Continuing tradition and exchaning culture
7/24/2008 Drinking for animals; masters of woodcraft
7/17/2008 What's an arts market
7/10/2008 Curtain calls
7/03/2008 The Lambovich Brothers
6/26/2008 HAS: How Art†Sells
6/19/2008 It's trolley tour time
6/12/2008 Helping hand
6/5/2008 Sumi-e and photography
5/29/2008 Digital to paint
5/22/2008 New Kimball-Jenkins board members
5/15/2008 Making it in New York ... or New Hampshire
5/8/2008 Public eye
5/1/2008 Art for Mother's Day
4/24/2008 New art walk planned for Manchester
4/17/2008 Awards for the state's artists
4/10/2008 New directions
4/3/2008 New exhibits: no April Art Walk
3/27/2008 Monastary Gibbons "Visions of Monadnock"
3/20/2008 Currier opens March 30 with week of free admission
3/13/2008 Looking back at baseball
3/6/2008 Painting, calligraphy and classic cars
2/28/2008 More snow delays; Dartmouth receives arts endowment
2/21/2008 Prints and animals in Concord
2/14/2008 From the Andes to New Hampshire
2/7/2008 What does your butt say
1/31/2008 Local color
1/24/2008 Local color
1/17/2008 Conversation starter
1/10/2008 Nominate your favorite arts-loving business
1/3/2008 The inner personalities of rubber finger puppets
12/27/2007 Changes in the arts in 2007
12/20/2007 Local Color
12/13/2007 Portsmouth markets Christmas spirit
12/6/2007 One more cause
11/29/2007 Three days of merriment
11/22/2007 Advocating for arts; Zimmerman season ends soon
11/15/2007 Images, past and present
11/8/2007 Back in time at a Concord mansion
11/1/2007 Governor honors artists with art
10/25/2007 Spatial Matters
10/18/2007 Perfecting a craft
10/11/2007 Handmade furniture
10/04/2007 Capturing nature on canvas and by camera
9/27/2007 Local color
9/20/2007 Nashua, in the abstract
9/13/2007 Local Color
9/6/2007 Looking at the world
8/30/2007 Art in the fresh air
8/23/2007 Berlin pride
8/16/2007 Finding money
8/9/2007 Park of arts
8/2/2007 New Hampshire treasure honored again
7/26/2007 Taking care of wood
7/19/2007 Local Color
7/12/2007 Local Color
7/5/2007 Local Color
6/28/2007 Local Color
6/21/2007 The great outdoors
6/14/2007 Play per day
6/7/2007 Goodbye, gallery
5/31/2007 Impressions
5/24/2007 Local color
5/17/2007 Stieglitz in Manchester
5/10/2007 They're artists and they vote
5/3/2007 Lowell is the canvas for a summer of art
4/26/2007 Local color
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4/5/2007 A Saint paul student returns to show recent work
3/29/2007 Local color
3/22/2007 Compassionate cause
3/15/2007 Local color
3/8/2007 Making money
3/1/2007 Local Color
2/22/2007 Local Color
2/15/2007 Local Color
2/8/2007 Local Color
2/1/2007 DreamFarm Cafe's big show
1/25/2007 Built world
1/18/2007 Expressions of character
1/11/2007 Best practices
1/4/2007 Nominate your favorite for Governor's Arts Awards
12/28/2006 Art in 2006 in southern New Hampshire
12/21/2006 Time to learn
12/14/2006 Frisella's new studio; sell art for animals; girls only time
12/07/2006 Stained glass, found objects and ornaments
11/30/2006 No shortage of art sales
11/23/2006 A Granite†State greeting
11/16/2006 Santa Claus hangs with artists
11/9/2006 Visual art meets poetry
11/2/2006 Local Color
10/26/2006 Local Color
10/19/2006 Local Color
10/12/2006 Almost 80 artists in Hollis ...
10/05/2006 Fine art in a field
09/28/2006 Local Color
09/21/2006 Local Color
09/14/2006 Local†color
09/07/2006 Bel†Espirit, a happening of chance
08/31/2006 An artistic endeavor
08/24/2006 The almost-all architecture edition
08/17/2006 Half century of creativity
08/10/2006 Obsession with the Isles of Shoals
08/03/2006 See the precise craft of carving with a chainsaw
07/20/2006 For museums or your living room
07/13/2006 Making their mark
07/06/2006 Sense of place
06/29/2006 New ground
06/22/2006 MAA honors scholars an artists of the year
06/15/2006 Galleries open doors
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05/25/2006 Scenes from the air
05/18/2006 Vanguardians sit down
05/11/2006 Public masterpiece
05/04/2006 Art helps kids at MAA show
04/27/2006 In-house artists on display
04/20/2006 No Pinocchio here
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03/16/2006 Got Cow?
03/09/2006 A creative view of China
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02/23/2006 Love and art in one location
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02/09/2006 Art in the key of Adam and Eve
02/02/2006 Art to make you think
01/26/2006 New York†artists to show at Derryfiled School
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Alison Williams
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Anne Dufresne
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Art In The Park
Art in the Park sees attendance dip
Arts In Education Conference
Art like Crayons for grown-ups
Art you can sit on (if you own it)
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Die fotografieren
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East Colony Fine Art has gone jazz
Equal Arts Opportunities
Exploring purgatory and paradise
Expressions coming from within
Fighting cancer with creativity
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Harry Umen: New Work

Head of the class
Heating up the canvas
Inside the artistís studio
Itís art, and itís even practical!
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Jan De Bray
Local Artist, Global Message
Lollipops and Hand Grenades
MAA Adds New Dimension To Gallery
MAA Gallery Mixes It Up
Making Book With Children
Manchester Art In 2004
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NHIA chalks it up to May 14
Open Doors Manchester Returns
Open Doors Trolley Tour, The Winter Version
Looking for a crowd? Just add art
McGowan Fine Art Turns 25
Nita Leger Casey
Patti Matthis
Saint Anselm Favorite Returns
Searching for the extraordinary
Small Town Art Hits The Big City
Spirit Of The Holidays Exhibit
Step into the Art Pad at Langer Place
Stride and ride
Tagging goes to wall, gets legit
The art and craft of Glendi
The art of signs to art and stuff
The Art Of The Qashquai

The Return Of The Art Trolley Tour
The Ubiquitous Ann Domingue
Two-continent painting exhibit opens
Using nature as a canvas
Waxwork
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Wyeth Works Return To The Currier