About Old Photo Studios

When I was browsing through some old envelopes at my parents home, I came across 2 old photo studios envelopes. Nothing special it seem, but on closer look – I find that most photo studios at that time like to emphasize on “air conditioned”.

Looking at the postal code and telephone numbers on the envelopes, we can guess that it should be around 80s. The Golden Studio should be after 1985 since the telephone number is 7 digit while Serangoon Broadway should be between 1979 to 1984, as the telephone number is 6 digit (before 1985) and the postal code is 4 digit (after 1979). So I belived it should be early 80s or late 70s where photo studios started to have air conditioned in their setup. So they emphasized on the word ‘air-conditioned’ as maybe it was rare to have aircon at that time.

The other thing I remember about those old photo studios are the display photos they showed at their window outside their shop. Below shows a photo studio window display in 1982;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS

At that time, I think oval-shaped photo were very popular and also maybe people like to have their photos imprinted on plates too. Also touching up of photos are usually manually by paint brush ;

Credit : National Archives of Singapore, PICAS


16 Responses to “About Old Photo Studios”

  1. 1 Timothy Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    This is an interesting article. i believe since the 90s and the new millenium, we have been seeing the demise of these old studios. There are not many of these studios nowadays especially with the intro of the digital camera and most are switching to online prints or storing in digital format. The tides of change…

  2. 2 Philip Chew Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    I still have a few Serangoon Broadway Studio envelopes. The oldest one has only a single telephone number with 5 digits (87750). The address had no postal code and the studio was not airconditioned. I cannot remember which year. The rest is exactly like yours, except the telephone number has 7 digits (2887750). I think I was there in the late 80s.

  3. 3 Victor Koo Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 12:46 am

    Hey, I had wanted to do a similar post to yours but you beat me to it. The photo envelope I had was from “Ta Kong Photo Studio” in Middle Road. It probably belonged to the 1960s as the postal district was only a single digit “7”.

  4. 4 laokokok Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 7:50 am

    You are right Timothy, such old photo studios are probably gone with the introduction of digital cameras.

    Hi Philip, I think the only time I visit the photo studios are when I need to have Passport or IC photos taken in the past. I don’t think we have family photos taken by the studio. You are a regular customer with Serangoon Broadway?

    Hey Victor, yes Singapore started with double digit postal code and Middle Road has a single digit postal code.

  5. 5 Philip Chew Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Not so. I cannot remember my first visit to the studio when Singapore had no postal code and the telephone no. had only 5 digits. It must have been about 50 years ago. My second visit was in Sept 86 when my eldest daughter graduated fron NUS. The last visit was in Sept 88 when my eldest son and my second daughter graduated together.

  6. 6 Philip Chew Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    Hi Victor, there was a Ta Kong Studio at Upper East Coast Road, after the Siglap Centre (formerly Siglap Market)in the early 50s. It was very popular among students living in the east. Could it be a branch of the one at Middle Road?

  7. 7 profkingsfield2004 Saturday, October 25, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Only time I visited photo studio were a) 6 mths infant to pose in the nude. I dont’ know why parents of yesterday insist that male babies must do that – is this unique to certain dialects?, b) make IC, c) graduation day and d) wedding day.

    as to popularity of a/c, it is because inside the photo studio with all the “search lights” turned on, well-ironed and thick clothings and having to keep a steady pose (seated or standing), very hot. I always choose photo studio with a/c.

    I wonder whether photo studios still have that huge camera equipment which has wheels to allow for mobility. Also I notice they pull out a large wooden panel each time they finish taking the picture.

  8. 8 laokokok Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 7:19 am

    Yes, seen lots of those kids nude photos! Really wonder why such a tradition. Peter, I think that large wooden panel is to change the film.

  9. 9 Lam Chun See Friday, October 31, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    I think some of the today’s kids have never seen a negative. I still have some from my old passport fotos.

  10. 10 zigzagza Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Is there any studio that I can go to that still takes such photos?

    I would like a family portrait done in that style, you know, girls in dresses made of the same material, men looking stiff, plain background, maybe a mosaic floor?

  11. 11 Zalifah Ibrahim Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Currently, Serangoon Broadway is the only studio in Singapore still insists on using film for studio photography.

  12. 12 Frankie Saturday, October 16, 2010 at 1:29 am

    The only B & W family photo taken when I was probably one year odd in my mother’s arms was taken at a Studio in Great World. If I remember correctly it was called “Broadway”. I wonder if Serangoon Broadway is in anyway connected to them?

    And naked baby photos, most of the eldest in the family have them. I remember my eldest brother and a cousin who is the eldest as well have naked baby photos. Perhaps it’s a trend during that era. around 1940’s.

    I still haven’t found the time to start digging into all these old stuffs even as my interest in these things have grown recently.

  13. 13 adam72 Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 10:30 am

    this “huge camera equipment” is the large-format view camera with negatives 4″ x 5″ or bigger. the wooden panel is to keep the interior light-free prior to exposing the film.

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