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Photoworks to absorb Art Square photo classes in Leesburg

Thomas Ramsay, Nancy Goetzinger, KD Kidder and Neil Steinberg in the Photoworks studio space discussing their recent merger and opening of a new photo school. - Times-Mirror Photo/Rick Wasser
Within 24 hours of finding out Art Square, a visual arts space in Loudoun, was closing, award-winning photographer, cinematographer and film director Tom Ramsay, who taught at Art Square for four years went to visit KD Kidder, the co-owner of Photoworks in downtown Leesburg, with the intention of proposing a collaboration.

As Ramsey entered the shop, Kidder said: "I can't believe you're here."

"Why?" Ramsay asked.

"Because we want to start a photography school here at Photoworks," Kidder said.

That was Jan. 18. Eight weeks later, on March 11, the first class will be held at the Leesburg Photography School at Photoworks.

The grand opening will take place March 7 at a First Friday open house at Photoworks at 2a Loudoun St. SW in Leesburg.

For years, Kidder wanted to start a photography school. The recent closing of Art Square helped to move up the start date.

Photoworks is a 35-year-old example of how it is better sometimes to follow a passion, and not simply the profits.

The company was started by Kidder and Neil Steinberg in February 1979 after a local photography company that employed Kidder folded after over expansion.

Steinberg and Kidder opened their store with a passion for photography and the opportunity to fill an unmet demand in the market. They knew they needed to start small and not concern themselves with growing too quickly.

The two decided to slowly expand into different rooms in the building on a core business model of portraits, film and restoration work.

Their love of photography kept the doors open and, even as the business evolved, Photoworks stuck to what Kidder and Steinberg thought was best.

As digital photography began to eat the film business, Photoworks kept a darkroom because Kidder enjoyed developing photos herself.

Steinberg, a portrait photographer, and Kidder, who prefers candid event photography, also specialize in commercial head shots and restoration services for photos that have been burned, folded or underexposed.

The company's newest commitment to launch a photography school is perhaps even more solid than the original decision to start the business.

Offering photography classes made sense for the Photoworks business model because no extra permits or business licenses were required and only a minimal capital investment was needed.

By growing an interest in photography, Photoworks wanted to grow interaction with local photographers and bring back the collegial atmosphere Kidder missed from the old film days.

When film was popular, Kidder said, she would see patrons once a week or more when they had film to develop. Now, since photographers don't need to come in to the shop, the community aspect has gone.

Kidder and Steinberg, with Ramsay and his wife, Nancy Goetzinger, also a photographer and videographer, hope to bring back that community.


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