About the photographers

Many of the images in this exhibit are reproduced from negatives taken from the collections of two local photographers of importance.

Personal Studio – Robert Nicol

Robert Nichol, 1988. Kitchener-Waterloo Record photograph

Robert Nichol, 1988. Kitchener-Waterloo Record photograph

Robert T.G. Nicol (1922- ), professional photographer and owner of Personal Studio, began his photographic career in 1939 when he took pictures in Stratford of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on their Royal Tour of Canada. The drugstore where he took the negatives to be developed marketed the photographs and they appeared in many publications. After high school, Mr. Nichol worked a variety of jobs in Kitchener-Waterloo, and in 1946 he opened his own photography studio. For the next fifty years, he documented the Waterloo Region through personal and commercial photography. He started flying in 1961 and from that time on took aerial photographs as well as studio and candid photography. He retired as a professional photographer in 1996.

Our collection consists of approximately 175,000 negatives and 80,000 proof prints taken by Robert Nicol under the name of Personal Studio between 1946 and 1996.The studio, home portraits and candid photography of families and weddings, as well as commercial jobs for many local industries and businesses document the growth and changes in the way of life in the Waterloo Region in the post-war era. Many types of businesses are represented in the collection: storefronts and interiors of banks, clothing, department, music, furniture and grocery stores, dairies, factories, restaurants, hotels and motels, churches, service stations, car dealerships, service industries, construction trades and more.

Charles Belair

Charles Belair, 1982. Kitchener-Waterloo Record photograph

Charles Belair, 1982. Kitchener-Waterloo Record photograph

Charles Belair (1914- ) acquired his first camera while attending Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School, where he took photographs for the Grumbler yearbook. He developed his first photographs in a makeshift darkroom in his home. He specialized in mechanical drafting at school, but there were few opportunities in this field during the 1930s and so he decided to pursue his love of photography. In 1933, he joined the Binning Studio in the Dunker Building on King Street West in Kitchener, and in 1939 bought the business, launching the Belair Studio. Over his career, Mr. Belair created thousands of images of people, from prime ministers, royalty, and business and industry leaders in Kitchener-Waterloo, to multiple generations of local families. He also documented the lives of ordinary people and was well known for wedding photography.  Mr. Belair was hired by many local companies to do product photography, and became known as one of the top furniture photographers in Canada. He captured thousands of images of locally-produced items as well as interior shots of manufacturing spaces and offices.  Mr. Belair has received many awards and honours over his 75-year career.

Our collection consists of approximately 21,000 negatives taken by Charles Belair over the course of his career that form a pictorial record of the history of this community.

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