Inside Business: Polishing Old Time Photos | VideoJim Christianson | 11/13/2012
"The whole collection pretty much started by accident."
Since 1985, Masseth and his wife Claudia have specialized in photo finishing at Magic Photo Art. Around ten years ago, he dressed up an image of the former Blackstone Nightclub, where his shop is now located. And it turns out people who remembered the club wanted to buy the image.
"Within about three or four months, we sold about four or five of those photos," he said.
From there, the couple began collecting the rights to more and more old images captured in and around the Capital City and Mandan.
"We think it might be the start of World War I. We don`t know exactly, but there`s a couple women with handkerchiefs over their face. It looks like they possibly could be crying," he said.
Masseth has his own printer at the gallery that he uses to produce high resolution images on canvas. From President Kennedy to Tom O`Leary, Masseth sells a variety of iconic photos of historic faces, and of memorable buildings and structures. Some of the negatives were literally discovered in dust-covered boxes in the basement of his store.
"We had thousands of negatives, so we started going through them all and we picked out mostly the iconic shots of Bismarck that people would recognize," he said.
Masseth says while he uses Photoshop to enhance the images, he tries to stay true to the original artistic integrity of the photos.
"I don`t change anything in the photo. I just enhance it. I make it look nice."
And in some cases, he`ll add a splash of color. The majority of the images were taken between the 1930s and the 1950s, when large-frame cameras were still in use.
"It`s nice when you can look at a picture and say, `Boy! That`s very historic, but isn`t it pretty?`"
Customers who like to combine nostalgia, art and history will find all three at Magic Photo Art on 5th street.
Masseth says it`s actually more difficult to find quality photos from the 60s and 70s since that was around the time when Kodak sold Instamatic cameras.