Hampton Photo Arts is More Than Just a Photo Shop

Ben McHugh at work. Courtesy photo

A creator’s work is personal, as it often is for the person that ultimately ends up with it. How it is displayed, whether in its original form as a reproduction, is an equally delicate matter. For more than three decades, Hampton Photo Arts has understood this and embodied it in their work on the East End as well. Finding that individual clients are just as unique as the works they bring in, Ben McHugh shares how the company his father, David McHugh, founded does more than print and frame art.

David McHugh’s start in the photo business began at the locally well-known shop, Morris Studio in Southampton, which closed in 2017 after 125 years in business. During his time there, he also did wedding photography. Eventually deciding to go out on his own, and he opened his first shop in Bridgehampton in 1986. In 2017, a second location opened in Southampton. Ben McHugh also explored photography as an art himself.

“I did some photography and was in a bunch of fancy art shows I never should have been in with better photos and artists,” the younger McHugh laughs. “I decided to quit while I’m ahead and stopped showing my own and concentrating on working on other artists’ stuff.”

Full-service custom framing is a substantial of Hampton Photo Arts’ business, covering conservation framing and museum quality framing for photos, artwork, and larger pieces like flags, jerseys, and even golf clubs. They also produce their own ready-made frames out of their Southampton location, which allowed them to open a workshop.

McHugh says equally important to framing is art printing. With more than a dozen art papers, the shop reproduces original works and serves as a resource for artists to make edition prints. Some artists know exactly what they’re looking for, which can be matched perfectly, while others seek McHugh’s guidance in choosing the right paper based on the original’s color, medium, and artist’s personality.

Hampton Photo Arts and Framing by Joe Cheirchio.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions with art reproduction is that watercolor artists paint on watercolor paper,” McHugh says, explaining paper tooth determines the way ink lays down. “Watercolor paper isn’t the best to reproduce to match. For this you actually need a flatter paper.”

Keeping mum on some of the particularly well-known artists the shop has worked with, McHugh says there are many greats that have been with them throughout the years. He has framed posters and prints for Joe Chierchio, who has designed many covers for a local magazine. Another favorite is fine artist and illustrator Scott Bluedorn. McHugh is excited to be among the first that gets to see his new works as they scan and print for the artist often. Recently, Hampton Photo Arts framed an entire show for photographer Tara Israel.

“I loved it because she came in with just a memory stick,” McHugh shares. “She trusted us to print all the photos and frame for the show. We got to see from the very beginning an entire show be done; color corrections, paper selection, test prints, mat boards, making frames, wrapping it up… all front to back. It was pretty wild.”

Their passion for art extends far beyond printing and framing. Hampton Photo Arts sells a massive range of art and craft supplies, children’s arts and crafts and also hosts art shows of their own. Through the Bridgehampton location, they host a gallery show at Ashawagh Hall in Springs every November. In the Southampton shop, each month features a new artist. This month mixed media artist Adam Baranello, who is also a musician and performance artist, will have his works on display. Erick Segura will be February’s featured artist.

Advances in technology and being able to find literally anything on the internet is not lost on McHugh. You can buy anything online, including printing and framing services. While Hampton Photo Arts has been impacted in some ways, they did not realize at first. “We could tell because people would come in and ask us to fix broken or damaged pieces,” McHugh says, adding they do offer online services as well. “It’s good to know though there is a place you can go to fix these things… like us!”

Hampton Photo Arts is located at Bridgehampton Commons and 21 Windmill Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 537-7373 or visit hamptonphotoarts.com.