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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

Joyce and Bob Foster have taken the plunge to create the perfect atmosphere for the photo studio Joyce Foster has always wanted but never dreamed she'd get. Its name is simply Foster Photos.

After graduation at Parkview High School, Joyce Foster studied art and photography at Southwest Missouri State University. She didn't have any definite career plans at the time, but she'd been drawn to the camera long before she thought about it as her life's work.

The education and training she received in school tempered her natural talent with learned skills.

However, her first few years in the workplace soon proved disappointing. The glamour was gone; the need for self-expression stifled.

While working for other people, she realized she lacked the opportunity to grow as a professional photographer and expand her creativity. Discouraged, she quit the photography field for a while to work "regular" jobs and be a housewife, but the seed had been planted, and it refused to be ignored.

On the advice of professional photographer Aubry McBride, she started working again, but this time she bypassed the commercial options and went to work for herself, doing what she wanted to do. In hindsight, she said, she wishes she had found the nerve to do that from the beginning.

Foster began by networking and acquiring clients for everything from weddings and class reunions to family portraits and kids' shots. She joined several professional organizations and began to receive recognition and win awards for her work.

It gave her courage.

In working with children, she began theming the pictures around their interests tea parties for little girls, fire trucks and the like for boys. Often she does the shots in black-and-white and hand-tints the prints.

It wasn't long before she became known for working with youngsters, and she began to get referrals.

"Kids are still my favorite subject," she said.

From portraits and individual photos, Foster branched out to work for several local publications and businesses. She shoots the pictures for the color version of Homes Magazine and works on assignment for other regional publications on a regular basis.

Foster produced the photos for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce Directory and has also worked for the chamber on other assignments.

"The Chamber sends me a lot of business," she said.

About a year ago it became evident that the family home, from which she ran her photo operation, was no longer adequate for a growing business. She began looking for a possible location for a studio.

Since she had managed to correlate her business with the job of raising her two children, Wes and Lacey, she didn't want to stick them with a sitter.

"I don't want anyone else raising my children," she said.

The obvious answer was to find a location that served as both a family residence and a studio. The style and grace of older houses has always appealed to Foster, so it was a natural progression for her to end up on historic Walnut Street to view the choices available in that area.

What she found was the three-story Queen Anne Victorian at 1000 E. Walnut, built by Homer Fellows, founder of Springfield Wagon Company. The house was in need of repair and had been divided into apartments for many years, but it still retained most of its original charm, inside and out.

It took some convincing to win over her husband, Bob, after he looked at the house and saw the amount of work involved in restoring the property. But once he committed to the purchase, he became as enthusiastic as she was about the project, Foster said.

The couple kept the property rented for several months after they purchased it, meanwhile making plans for the renovation and putting their home in south Springfield on the market. But time became the enemy as Joyce's business continued to grow and the need to act out her dream finally overpowered any financial concerns about giving up the rental income.

The couple began a few isolated renovation projects in the spring of this year and began moving some possessions as the apartment units became vacant. When the last of the renters vacated, at the end of June, the family began to move in earnest.

The decision left most of the renovation to be done while living in the house. With six kitchens and baths available, there will be no lack of facilities while they work on the remodeling.

The decorative woodwork, ornate staircase and pocket doors will make the perfect backdrop for the nostalgic photos for which Joyce Foster has already become well known in the area.

Besides kids' shots, her other favorite subject is high school seniors. No longer the fake-smile mug shots, senior pictures have become expressive and original, and Foster goes all out to make the experience unique and fun for the subject.

Speaking of seniors, Foster said, "Most of them aren't too thrilled about the session at first, but when I make it an adventure for them, they really get into it."

Photo sessions at Foster Photos are by appointment only, but she commented that she can usually work people in if they are desperate. Ideally though, she likes to have two or three weeks to plan the best layout.

It's important to her to know about the subjects' interests and activities. She likes to talk to them about the clothing they pick for the shots. When a photo is themed around the family's or individual's interests, Foster said she feels it makes a personal statement about the subject.

If there is more than one subject, Foster makes suggestions on how to coordinate clothing so they won't clash.

She usually shoots one or two rolls of film at a session. The customer leaves a deposit when he or she picks up the proofs, then pays for the finished product upon receipt. Fees vary, depending on what is ordered, she said.

Foster is putting together a history of the Fellows' House, a written chronology with photos, to have on display in the sitting room next to the studio.

Part of the renovation plan includes the reconstruction of a carriage house said to have been at the back of the lot when Fellows owned the property. From old photos, Joyce hopes to duplicate the original structure as much as possible.

For practical purposes, the carriage house will double as a three-car garage.

Foster also plans to make one end into a children's playhouse that she can use for photo sessions.

Foster Photos has a web site at www. fosterphotos.qpg.com.

FOSTER PHOTOS:

Phone: 887-2004

Address: 1000 E. Walnut

Owners: Bob and Joyce Foster

Web site: www.fosterphotos.qpg.com.

INSET CAPTION:

No longer the

fake-smile mug shots, senior pictures have become expressive and original, and Foster goes all out to make the experience unique and fun for the subject.

PHOTO CAPTION:

After years of work in the photography industry, Joyce Foster decided to open her own studio at 1000 E. Walnut St. Foster and her husband, Bob, are renovating the building, which is also their home.[[In-content Ad]]

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