PUERTO RICO Saipan — After nearly 20 years of operation and a change of ownership halfway through its existence Saipan Photo Lab & Studio is closing its doors to patrons on Feb. 10. This was disclosed by Jack Hardy photographer and owner of Saipan Photo Lab & Studio. “I’ve been losing money lots of money ” Hardy said when asked why he was closing the business. “I’ve lost enough that I could buy a very nice home someplace in the world ” he said.

Hardy tried to sell Saipan Photo Lab as a business but he said there was almost no interest at all. “I’ve talked with many many people over the past couple of years but nobody seems to have any sustained interest in pursuing it so I’m down now to marketing individual pieces of equipment and see where that goes.”

According to Hardy Saipan Photo Lab was started in 1987 by Tony Pellegrino whose business interests included water purification and distribution dinner cruises and a shrimp farm among others.

Hardy bought Saipan Photo Lab from Pellegrino in 1996. He said that the company peaked as a tourist-related business between 1994 and 1995. “I realized after I bought it that tourism was not going to be sustained at a high level. The revenue was probably 80% from tourists when I bought it and we reversed that ratio to 20% tourist and 80% from the local market ” Hardy said.

To invert the reliance on the tourist-related business Saipan Photo Lab concentrated on schools proms parties family portraits glamour style photos and laboratory work including processing of slide film regular color film as well as black and white film.

Hardy said that when Saipan Photo Lab & Studio finally closes he would go back to using Images Saipan Ltd. his original photography business started in 1995 to continue doing business as an independent photographer. Images Saipan Ltd. currently has no employees and no debts which Hardy appreciated.”

Saipan Photo Lab & Studio used to employ 11 now it is down to five. 

When he goes solo under Images Saipan Ltd. Hardy said that he would continue to offer the same product line and services that the company used to provide such as postcards note cards scenic reprints commercial products and shoots for the hotels their properties and menu items.  “I did some weddings in 1995 and have continued doing weddings every year. It’s not a big part of my business but I enjoy doing it ” Hardy said.

With his shift to digital photography Hardy said that he developed a shooting style that did not need assistants. While he found having an assistant to pass the lenses or to do errands helpful Hardy said that he did not really need to have staffers in his employ. “So what I will do as an independent photographer without a staff are things like portraits at the beach or at your home.  I have portable equipment that I can take to somebody’s home.  It can be done inside and I will continue selling my postcards and note cards ” Hardy said.

He also plans on photographing local weddings and marketing himself to Japanese tourists at hotels.

The closure of Saipan Photo Lab & Studio was the fulfillment of a promise that Hardy made to himself in the fall of 2006: that he would not own the company when he turned 70 which was in January of 2007.

Saipan Photo Lab has set Jan. 31 as the last day of accepting job orders to make sure that processing proofing and printing are completed before its last day of business. MBJ