Manteca portrait and commercial photographer Chris Leonard is continuing a tradition in opening a custom photography studio at the corner of Lincoln and Yosemite avenues.
Known at one time as the photography corner, it was home at various times of a Meadows Camera store, Johnson Studio, and Kahl Photography.
Leonard and his wife Gina opened their first studio in the 100 block of North Maple Avenue in 2004 – the former home of Porterfield Jewelry. When the economy dipped they moved to an office in the back of Main Street Café on West Yosemite Avenue between Union Road and Airport Way. Prior to opening his first store front, Leonard had worked at the Qualex photo processing firm owned by Kodak in Manteca’s Industrial Park for 18 years.
Portrait proofs are a thing of the past having been replaced in their studio by a large, flat screen TV in a viewing room complete with fireplace. Clients can sit as a family in soft chairs and a couch in a family room-like setting and choose their photographs off the screen.
Leonard is regarded as a talented professional by his peers and specializes in enhancing the photographs of high school seniors in a one-of-a-kind product for his clientele.
Leonard originally came to Manteca from Stockton by way of Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. The couple was married in August of 1990 in Sacramento with his wife Gina partnering with her husband in everything from bookkeeping to retouching as well as his No. 1 receptionist and confidant.
He credits Tracy photographer Steve Ridolfi, Sacramento photographer Christopher Kight and Bob Notalie from Davis as having been his key mentors. Leonard said Notalie taught him everything he knows about the field of youth sports photography – a mainstay in the slow times throughout the year.
“Photography is all about people – not just the photography element,” he said.
“I like making new relationships,” he said. “I can’t walk through town without running into someone I know.”
He explained that much of what he does in photographing high school teams – football, basketball, soccer – is geared to bringing high school seniors into the studio. When they come in and see portraits of their friends they get interested in having a sitting of their own, he said.
The Manteca Bulletin sports department is making use of Leonard’s abilities in providing photographs of outstanding high school athletes as well.
Chris and Gina remember one of their students who impressed them with his drive. It was Matt Rogers from Sierra High School who wanted to be a pilot and go on to Annapolis and then to flight school to become a U.S. Navy Fighter pilot with the Blue Angels.
Leonard even went to the Modesto Airport to take a senior portrait of the then high school senior – it was of course with his plane that he would soon solo. Rogers has graduated from Annapolis and is now in flight school at Pensacola, Florida.
“He knew what he wanted to do from the time he was in elementary school and achieved his Eagle Scout rank – he was a go-getter,” Leonard said.