Portrait studio chain calls it quits

April 6, 2013 at 11:12 AM
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ST. LOUIS, April 6 (UPI) -- Portrait photography company CPI Corp. of St. Louis has closed its business, another traditional media casualty of the digital age, analysts said.

The company, which operates 3,000 family portrait studios in Sears and Walmart stores, has been warning it might go under, the Chicago Tribune reported Saturday.

The company hired a new chief executive officer last year but fiscal third-quarter sales were down 26 percent from the same quarter a year earlier.

The portrait studios have provided glossy photos for more than 60 years, many of them showing children in their Sunday best, including new outfits bought for Easter or other occasions. They have been a mirror of Americana -- sometimes ill-advised portraits displaying children in uncomfortable get-ups rolling their eyes and couples kissing tightly in heart-shaped bubbles.

Commonly, the portrait studio was a place to document an expensive new hairdo, which became the subject of giggles later, when fashions changed.

"Obviously, we're sad to hear the news, as many decades of gloriously awkward photos came to us as a result of these family portrait studios," wrote the managers of the website Awkward Family Photos, which celebrates the best of the worst family photographs.

"While these studios might no longer exist, we are confident that the nostalgia for these studio photos will endure," the managers wrote.

The company, Sears and Walmart issued statements saying they would work to make sure all present orders are filled.

"The whole digital world has changed everything so much. People are very happy taking pictures of themselves with their iPhones and putting them on Instagram and sharing them instantly on Facebook and Twitter," said Chris Gampat, editor in chief of the blog Phoblogapher.

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