Keel to shift focus outside of the studio
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — The John H. Keel Photography Studio has been a presence on Marshfield’s main street for nearly 70 years, since John and Patricia Keel purchased the Thomas Portrait Studio above the St. Clair-Page clothing store at 241 S. Central Ave.
The studio had moved several times but in 1970 found a more suitable home in the old Adler bakery at 343 S. Central Ave.
The bakery was remodeled into a studio, and the Keels added their own photographic processing lab just before the industry converted to color photography.
John’s son David began working in his father’s studio while attending Marshfield Senior High.
“I graduated in 1971 and was going to go on to school, but I thought I would work a semester or so. Next thing you know I was like, ‘Hey, I’ve got a good teacher, and I enjoy it. I can do this,’” David said.
David stayed on with his parents. At that time, the business had grown to two locations, one in Marshfield and one in Wisconsin Rapids. The Keels later added a Colby location as well.
“I bought the studio in 1985,” added David, and with several long-term employees, he continued a successful business.
“I’ve always had good employees. I’ve had a lot that started their first job with us and retired with us,” said David.
The digital age ushered in huge changes for the studio, and in 2004 David made the conversion himself.
“We were one of the last ones,” recalled David. “We began to work with less employees and do more.”
After working nearly 50 years in the photography business, David is preparing for a more relaxed role. He will exit the studio at the end of September and lease the property to photographer Kelly Sawyer.
“I will still be doing on location photography and teams,” said David. “I hope to continue for some time. Maybe I’ll just never want to quit. My phone number will remain the same. It’ll just be going from the studio to my pocket.”