BY SEÁN P. FEENY
AFTER thirty-six years in the portrait and wedding photography business a well-known Donegal photographer is moving on to new pastures.
Letterkenny man Dermot Donohue is a familiar name having captured special occasions on camera for Donegal families for many years.
From his early days when he opened up his first studio on Letterkenny’s Main Street, beside Dillon’s Supermarket, on October 21, 1978, Dermot was at the forefront of photography in Donegal, building up a hugely loyal customer base.
“I always had a great passion for photography. When I was younger I would go up to Tony O’Shea’s studio to use his dark room at any opportunity.
“I then went to the old Regional College where the focus of my course was mainly on arts – I wanted to be an artist at the time – but I got to use the college’s dark room facilities and was introduced to photography a lot more, so when I graduated I opened up my own studio.”
“My old studio was at a great location, in the centre of the town, and from then on the focus was on building the brand of Donohue Studios and thankfully I was very successful.”
After so many years in the business, Dermot has seen a lot of changes in the photography business. “The big change of course came when photography chance from analogue to digital; that had a huge impact on the industry, especially wedding photography.
“Just the other week an old client came in to see if I still had the negatives of their wedding in 1982. When I went to my files I could only find two packs.
“I thought I had lost photos, but when I took a closer look I had every one there from the groom and bride arriving, the ceremony and exchanging of the rings to the group photographs.
“Back then you had the whole wedding in 48 frames. Nowadays you would take over 400 shots, but the difference is in the old days you made sure every frame was perfect as opposed to where it’s more of a ‘shoot from the hip’ approach.”
Dermot’s customers have been very loyal over the years, through the good days and the bad, something he has always been very thankful for. “I really want to take this opportunity to thank all those customers that kept coming back to me to get photographs taken.
“Last week a customer called into me to have an old portrait re-mounted. When I looked at her files I told her ‘you must have about 10 portraits from me’.
“She called me back when she counted them and told me there were 31 Donohue portraits hanging in her house; I couldn’t believe it.
“I feel so privileged to have been there to take family photographs from generation to generation capturing everything from the first holy communion to the wedding.”
Dermot has always been a great friend of ‘The Derry People’ and for many years ran ground-breaking and innovative competitions with the newspaper.
He said: “My association and the advertising campaigns I ran with the Derry People definitely played a big part in the success of the Donohue Studios brand. Any ideas I ever came up with, the newspaper got behind the campaign and rolled with it.
“A lot of people will remember the annual Portrait Awards we ran, promotions for Valentine’s Day, and of course the popular old prairie-style photographs we started over 20 years ago, when we were able to print black and white film in sepia tone.
“Advertising was always my fourth biggest expense. I always believed in advertising and I feel that it was instrumental in my success.”
When the opportunity arose to lease his studio to another photographer, Dermot decided it was time to move on to a new business venture and lease his Port Road studio to Convoy-based photographer Connor Maguire who will open his Pure Purple Studio in the coming weeks.
He said: “I have always done corporate work and there has been a rise in that market so I decided I would develop products, such as 360 degree virtual tours and aerial work, and provide services for digital-born businesses who want to promote themselves in the web.
Dermot’s corporate custom base over the years has included some huge employers in the north-west, including Unifi, from whom he printed the biggest photo in Donegal at the time, a 10ftx4 image, in the 1990s, Fruit Of The Loom, Oatfield Sweets and many more.
Dermot has of course archived all of his photographs over the years so if you would like to access or re-order photographs taken by Donohue Studios you can do so by calling Dermot on Tel 07491 21125 or Mobile 087 238 0513.