Camera man

Gordon Allen

PHOTO/Matt Bieker

After 30 years in business, Gordon’s Photo Service is closing at the end of June. Gordon Allen, the owner and proprietor, is originally from Southern California and has worked with cameras since he was 15 years old. Aside from shooting professionally, he’s spent the last three decades helping Northern Nevadans make memories at Gordon’s and the Camera Exchange, the shop he owned previously in Carson City.

What got you into cameras in the first place?

That’s Dad’s fault. At 4 years old, I played with his cameras. I mean very young. I mean Dad would get out the light meter and the fancy camera and all that kind of stuff, and I said, “I want to start taking pictures.” So, they got me a camera when I was a kid. And so I’ve been doing it all my life. I mean, it’s been like breathing. … When I first got a real job, very young, I said … “Dad, I’d like to maybe, you know, maybe Roy” … a friend of ours owned a camera store in Fullerton, my hometown, Roy’s Photo. Dad called Roy because they were in a photo club together, and Roy said, “You know, we can use some help in the back room,” and all that kind of stuff. So, I said, “Yeah, I’m in.”

What did those early days of business look like in Carson?

I opened my store in Carson in 1975. … So anyway, it was a lot of fun. I mean, it is a lot of fun. It still is. I liked the people and all that kind of thing. I opened that store, then when Dad joined me, we changed the name, actually, to the Camera Exchange. And then in ’89 I decided to come to Reno and opened a store, and a friend of mine—I mean, I was still involved with Dad in Carson—but I came up here, and a friend of mine said, “Everybody just calls it Gordon’s Photo. Just call it Gordon’s Photo.” Because, I mean, everybody knew me.

You’ve been a fixture of the community. What went into the decision to close?

Well, 50 years in business, number one. I’m 65, and actually my father is still alive at 94, and, to be very honest, I want to spend time with my dad. I mean, I’ll be blunt. Money’s not important. I mean, I’m not a wealthy man, but I have enough so that I can survive comfortably without a lot of issues, which is nice. But I do, I want to go camping with Dad. It sounds funny, but that’s what I—and maybe take a road trip. He’s still somewhat mobile, and he’s cognizant. So, it’s important for me to give him a little back. … I’ll miss the people. It has never been about money. It’s always been trying to take care of and provide services or, you know, equipment that people need to produce certain memories.

Gordon’s offers printing and archival services you don’t see very much anymore. Are you worried about the analog resources remaining in town?

You know, maybe somebody will pick up the business. Gordon will be gone, but it’s possible somebody will pick it up. … And I truly have cultivated that, my sales of film actually increased dramatically. And the processing—my lab manager, she came up, and she showed me the numbers were up 20 percent from last year. So, I mean, it’s significant. I mean, it’s adding up. And it’s a good service, and we don’t just process film. We do restoration. We do video transfers. We do on and on and on and on. We do all those kinds of things that a lot of places have given up on. Costco doesn’t do it anymore. A lot of places don’t do it anymore or if they do it, I have to say, the quality is not quite the same.