LEXINGTON, SC — Cleaning out the closet is more than just a new year’s ritual for Don and Bunnie Hagenlocher, who’ve had a photography studio in Lexington since 1981.
“We’re coming to the end of our career,” said Bunnie Hagenlocher, 68, who has handled the business side of Hagenlocher Photography all these years.
So a couple of months ago, the two agreed to put a message on their sign along North Lake Drive.
“SELLING NEGATIVES,” it reads. “CALL 359-3712.”
Boxes and file drawers full of large-format negatives, capturing thousands of formal portraits over the last 32 years – images of brides and babies and families with dogs.
They’ve already pitched five years’ worth of negatives, 1981 to 1985, but they didn’t like doing it. What if someone loses everything in a house fire? Or a child dies?
Their photography studio is set up like a home, with upholstered furniture and brass chandeliers.
Large framed portraits line the walls.
Don Hagenlocher, 72, points to a dad seated between sons in matching sweater vests.
“I took this at Christmas,” he said, “right after his wife died.”
Three babies in diapers stare out of another frame.
The session was going badly until Bunnie tripped over a cord and fell, Don said, chuckling at the memory. Each of the triplets looked up at the same time, producing the image their parents desired.
In the next room, a woman with one satin slipper peeking from below an elaborate wedding gown poses in black and white. Don took that picture about 18 years ago. She was a flight attendant, he said; a little flakey.
“She never came and got it. I just have it hanging here because I kind of like it.”
The Hagenlochers don’t have a deadline for getting rid of decades of negatives.
“It’s just that we’ve been talking about this for years,” Bunnie said.
And time has a way of playing tricks.
About a dozen customers have seen the notice and gotten in touch but, to track down the negatives, she needs the year a portrait was taken.
“A lot of people tell us, ‘It was about six or seven years ago.’ But turns out it was eight or nine.”
Like just about everyone else, Don Hagenlocher converted to digital cameras years ago. He doesn’t use film anymore.
At the same time, portraits have become a very small part of the Hagenlochers’ business, giving way to the restoration of antique photos or the conversion of slides to computer discs.
“Every mother on every cul de sac has a camera or a phone, and they can take 800 pictures of their kids in the park and get one that looks pretty good,” Don said.
His enlarger is still in the back, in a darkroom-turned-storage closet. It’s filled with Christmas decorations and empty boxes. Don Hagenlocher, who’s been fighting off surgery for two bad knees, said he doesn’t know what to do with the old equipment, dated and heavy.
The couple works just three days a week now.
They no longer advertise their business.
Bunnie tells her husband it’s a shame to have a talent and not use it but, frankly, he’s at a point in life when he likes to be selective.
“We’re content,” Don Hagenlocher said, looking to his wife and business partner.
Reach Hinshaw at (803) 771-8641.