Nowadays, when eating, traveling, shopping or just resting at home, people can't help picking up their mobile phones to take a few photos, sharing their daily life from time to time. Taking photos seems to have become an indispensable part of our life.
But in the past, photography used to be a very grand thing, a “luxury” consumption. Only on important occasions, such as wedding and the birth of a new baby, would every family wear their most "high-grade" clothes to have a picture taken in the photo studio and keep it for collection for decades. Many photos are black-and-white and small in size, like tofu cubes. The edge of the photos is cut beautifully into jagged lines, and the name of Da Bei Photo Studio is at the corner. In Beijing, Da Bei Photo Studio is the most famous and has the longest history among these photo studios.
There are numerous time-honored brands in Qianmen Street. As the introduction of photographic technology was late, Da Bei Photo Studio may not rank the first in terms of the brand history, but when it comes to the influence in modern Beijingers’ life, Da Bei has left Beijingers the most memories in the past 100 years. In the years when science and technology were still underdeveloped, photos from Da Bei offered opportunities for children to see their elders they had never met, for the elderly to look back to their childhood, and for people to see their relatives and friends far away by keeping their pictures as souvenirs of life.
A hundred years ago when Da Bei Photo Studio was just opened, it was located in Shitou Hutong. The storefront included only a second floor of the street store, four or five bungalows, with only three apprentices and an old-fashioned mirror box camera. But by the 1930s, its scale and reputation had been listed among the best in Beijing. According to an old master in Da Bei, the living room of the photo studio at that time was “more than 100 square meters, paved with ceramic tiles. Inside it was a row of chairs next to the wall, all of which were made of rosewood or red sandalwood”. The taking of wide-format group photos that still enable Da Bei to maintain its “exclusive” status even today also began at that time. Da Bei Photo Studio spent heavily to buy the motorized mechanism produced by Kodak to take group photos. Decades later when Kodak came to Da Bei to negotiate business, it was shocked by these high-quality group photos and asked curiously where the equipment used by them were produced. The then manager of Da Bei replied, “It was produced in the 1920s by Kodak.”
In the new century, digital cameras began to enter thousands of households, which posed a severe challenge to traditional photo studios such as Da Bei. Different from the general studios, Da Bei Photo Studio has always kept traditions as its unique characteristics. Traditional crafts such as taking photos of theatrical costumes, coloring of old photos and repairing of base plates and photos are all conducted in the workshop, a cabin on the top floor of the studio. The repairing and coloring workers are old employees who have worked in the studio for more than 20 years, and the tools they use have even longer working years. “Those boards for repairing photos have a history of 30 or 40 years”. To make sure Da Bei survives in the increasingly competitive photography market, Da Bei photographers take the initiative to expose new photography schools and learn new photography techniques. Da Bei Photo Studio understands that time-honored brands do not mean “relying on the brand history and offering the old-fashioned product”, and only continuous innovation can help the brand better develop. Adhering to the concept of keeping pace with the times and the innovative inheritance of excellence, Da Bei Photo Studio has expanded its stores and developed at a high speed since 2015.
The current Da Bei photo studio has many branches, each of which is spacious and bright. The stores are elegantly and uniquely decorated, creating the beautiful and comfortable environment. The complete space configuration in each store, including independent waiting area, clothing area, makeup area, selection area, VIP room, etc., will provide its customers with a better experience.
A hundred-year-old Da Bei Photo Studio took countless photos to focus on the precious history piece by piece, record the changing Beijing day by day, and leave scenes of ordinary family life bit by bit. With its tradition and characteristics developed over many years, based on its irreplaceable technology and emotional advantages, Da Bei Photo Studio is still standing quietly in Beijing, waiting for its customers.