Dismantling a photo studio, and a bit of Woodmont history

The photo studio at 14 Dunbar Road will soon turn back into a garage.

But before that happens, Nancy Holt, owner of Photography by Joseph, hopes people will come and claim the framed and matted photos that have accumulated there over nearly 50 years.

They are photographs of brides beaming on their wedding day, mothers cradling their newborns, and children obediently sitting for the photographer so their parents could capture their youth forever.

Many of the pieces here paint a picture of times gone by. There is a black and white image of a bride walking through a crowd, the hoop of her gown flared forward, as a guest dressed in Jackie O-fashion waves tosses confetti with a gloved hand.

Nancy and her late husband, Joseph, moved to this house in the early 1970s — a classic Woodmont colonial a short walk from the beach. They soon converted the garage into a photo studio, filling it with the lights, cameras, dark room and other tools of the trade. Over the years, it also filled with sample wedding albums and favorite portraits, matted, framed and hung on the walls for customers to see. There are hundreds, some filed in manila sleeves above a cabinet, preserving the work that epitomized the skills of Nancy and Joseph Holt, who became an integral part of the Woodmont community during their years along its shoreline.

Joseph was the kind of photographer who could make people feel at ease, and evoke those huge smiles from children, said Wayne Greene, a photographer who worked with the Holts for more than 30 years.

Nancy, he said, specialized in the studio.

“She did all the great studio stuff,” Greene said, pointing at prints that featured unique, statuesque poses and creative, artistic lighting. He also pointed to the ribbons hanging from a number of her frames, awards from the Connecticut Professional Photographers Association.

“She did wonderful lighting, form and composition,” Greene said. “She made up her own poses — some with that classic 1930s look.”

Nancy Holt didn’t study photography in school, but she learned many skills from her late husband, and she said she attended a number of seminars over the years.

But she was much different than her husband in terms of skills.

“Joe had the ability to make people relax and smile,” Nancy said with a grin. “That wasn’t my bag.”

Nancy, always gracious and poised, with a quick wit and a quiet, modest demeanor, was a perfect complement to her husband, Greene said, explaining that while her husband’s work was animated and lively, Nancy’s was chic.

Examples of both their skills hang on the walls and fill the cabinets in this backyard studio.

Joseph Holt died in 2001, and Nancy and Greene kept the studio going until 2010.

Greene said the business got a bit tricky by that time because digital photography had replaced film and suddenly “everyone was a photographer.” An industry just about collapsed, he said.

Holt, in her 80s today, is not as mobile as she was once, and she has sold her house, and the studio with it, to move somewhere that better serves her needs. The studio will be turned back into a garage, as it began.

Before that happens, Nancy invites old customers to call her and stop by to look at the collections in the studio and reclaim images of themselves. People who think they may find some of their family photographs here are invited to call her at 203-878-1666 or 475-319-1224.

Also, before the sale of the house in finalized in June, she plans to have an open studio, and sell off remaining work and studio equipment. Anything historic — and there is quite a bit, including photos and negatives of old-time Woodmont postcards — will be donated to the Borough of Woodmont, Nancy said.

Ann Docherty from Raveis Real Estate said the house, studio and Nancy Holt herself shine a light on Woodmont history.

“Photography by Joseph in Woodmont has been an iconic Milford business for almost 50 years,” Docherty said.

The house sold in a week, Docherty added, noting that people who stopped in to look at it spent most of their time talking to Holt about Woodmont, the things that have stayed the same over the years, and the things that have changed.