Roy Dressel Photography is a Visalia California Photography studio, in business since 1984. Our studio is located in the heart of Visalia’s vibrant downtown district.
How I got “into” photography.
Everyone seems to have an about page, a place where they tell you how they got into photography. About how passionate they are about their art, and on and on. Hay, I’m no different, but then again, who do I think I am? Well, here is who I am.
I am Roy Dressel, owner of Roy Dressel Photography (a catchy name for the business don’t you think) The business began in 1984, but I have been “into” photography since high school. In fact, on my thirteenth birthday, I received a little kit to develop black and white film. (film, look it up here on Wikipedia) I was hooked, I loved the darkroom. Taking pictures first with a simple little box camera, then going in into my darkened bedroom at night and processing the film. That was cool.
In high school, I signed up for a basic photography course with photography teacher Robert Myers. This was at Bloomington High School in southern California, near Fontana. I was like a sponge, absorbing all I could about the art and craft of photography. It was also at this point and time that I began backpacking. Backpacking and photography kind of saved my life. They gave me the drive to learn, a direction and I became passionate (there’s that word) about both.
I backpacked in the San Bernardino, and San Gabriel mountains on the weekends when school was in session. In the summer months, I went to the Sierras. All the time recording my hikes with the camera. By the time I was seventeen I was backpacking the John Muir Trail. A year after I graduated from high school, I began the Pacific Crest Trail. Hiking from Mexico to Canada during three wonderful summers. All the while taking photos, getting better equipment and one evening, while walking the Crest Trail in southern Washington, deciding that photography would be what I would make my life’s work.
Back in Visalia, I attended COS. I Worked on the newspaper and yearbook staffs and even co-edited a magazine, learning layout, and page design. It was at COS that I got daily experience in photography. It honed my craft by shooting all the time. After college, I got married and got a job selling cameras at JCPenney. In those days, Penneys sold electronics, sporting goods, furniture along with cameras. I soon became head of the camera department, at a time when 35mm camera sales were booming. It was a fun job and one where I learned how to work with people, customer service and business. Without JCPenney, I would never have started my own business
In 1984 I decided that I needed some extra income. Selling cameras was fun, I was learning a lot but I was not getting rich. So I bought a video camera and a good professional medium format film camera and started Roy Dressel Photography. Photographing weddings, class reunions and some portraits on the weekends.
At this period of time, the mid-80s (1984 to be exact) video was just entering the consumer market. Big heavy cameras and separate recorders that you had to carry over your shoulder, recording onto VHS tape. But it was now possible to record an entire wedding and reception. I could see that it was the in-thing. Having video along with stills would help me stand out and get me more work.
Plus, doing video had an added benefit that I didn’t realize until I had shot a few weddings. When I videoed a wedding, I was working and watching and getting ideas from other wedding photographers. That was a huge learning experience and a big benefit.
In those days I worked out of my home in Farmersville. I had a small little office in the garage. I went to customers’ homes to book weddings, deliver books and do all the selling. In 1985 I began doing B&W darkroom work for other professional photographers and advertising agencies in Visalia. I called the business Roy Dressel’s Black and White Services. It was some extra income for the business doing something I loved to do. I remember many a night I would go home from working at Main Drug (where I had moved on to after leaving Penneys in late 1984) and spending a couple of hours in the darkroom, listening to radio talk shows. It was work, but it was fun work. My introverted side I liked to say.
Black and White Photography is still a passion for me, creating light and shade, shape and form.
By 1993 the business was taking all my free time. I was then working part-time for a business called Alberts’ Studio, located down the street from Main Drug. In July of that year, I made the decision to quit and take my business full time. It was something that I had dreamed about for years. I began the business because we needed extra income, but found that I really liked being my own boss. Soon after starting it back in 84, I knew I wanted to make this a full-time venture, but that was not an easy thing to do.
At the time, we had two kids. I was the main breadwinner and then along came the third child, without any insurance. I working for others to get that steady paycheck and working on the business on my own time.
In January of 1995, I had moved out of the house and into a studio in the Times Place Building. One year later, in March of 96 moved into the studio where I am today. I had added another photographer in December of 2000 and by 2005 we had three photographers on staff. At that time we were photographing 80 weddings a year.
But changes were in the air, big changes lead by the digital camera. Changing the way we worked and the way customers perceived the professional photographer. Then the recession of 2008-2012 hit. The business shrunk because of those two events. Today we have one photographer, me. My three boys help out in the business, doing a variety of different tasks part-time. My wife, Javonna (I remarried in 2011) helps out. I now live in Fresno (Javonna was a nurse at Children’s hospital when we got married but has since retired).
In all those years, photography and the business is still a passion. I enjoy it as much, or more today than I ever have.
So that is who I think I am, who I really am is anyone guess.
PS: I decided to title this post “Who Do We Think We Are” because it was the title of one of my favorite rock bands albums. (Deep Purple: think Smoke On The Water) and it just seems appropriate