9:11 PM / Tuesday March 28, 2023

16 Sep 2016

Butler Prestige Photography extends opportunity to former clients to preserve their legacy

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September 16, 2016 Category: Local Posted by:

Archived photos, negatives and digital files will be disposed of in the coming weeks.

By Amy V. Simmons

When the award-winning Butler Prestige Photography studio was established 30 years ago, its founder, George Butler, decided to take a chance on transforming what was once his avocation — photography — into a full-time vocation. His many years of working in professions that required high human interaction skills prepared him for the challenge.

A graduate of LaSalle University (formerly known as LaSalle College), Butler worked in Philadelphia as a caseworker and as a non-profit fundraiser for local branches of the United Negro College Fund and United Way. However, his persistence and a willingness to learn over the years allowed a natural progression of his talent to take place. This attitude helped to hone his craft, increase his commitment to excellence and develop the humility to accept and correct his mistakes when they occurred.

Over the years, Butler built a business based on commitment to exemplary customer service and dedication to the hundreds of clients he served. From family portraits to corporate photo shoots, everyone was treated with the same level of professional service and respect.

This year, Butler’s journey as a professional photographer came full circle when he decided to transition back to photography as an avocation. When Butler Prestige Photography closed its doors to the general public in August, former clients were invited in to purchase back items before Butler disposes of them, which he must do. He has amassed hundreds of negatives, digital files, portraits and related materials over the years, but the cost to warehouse these items is prohibitive.

Since spreading the word about his intentions well before the closing date through social media and the press, Butler has netted some results, but not enough. When considering his next steps since closing the studio, Butler explained that for now — due to the slow response to his outreach to former clients– he is still in the throes of the first steps.

“I am in the midst of the transition from [being] a full-time, full-service, professional businessman, to [becoming] a more leisurely, part-time, photographic hobbyist. Which is where I started from — all the fun and excitement, without the pressures that go along with running a storefront,” he explained.

“In that process, one of my biggest concerns is that I have actually heard from less than 2 percent of my former clients. This is in spite of the fact that I have made every attempt to reach out to them through the media, email and phone calls, Unfortunately, over a 30-year period, people have had many different phone numbers, and different addresses. But it has been imperative to me that I at least reach them and give them an option,” Butler said.

This is an excellent opportunity for former clients to add material to their photo collections that can be shared with all family members for generations to come. Many of the subjects in the photographs are no longer living, and along with the modern tools available for recording genealogies and family histories, they are a valuable asset.

“I have their treasured memories in the form of early days film negatives, the more contemporary digital files, in portrait samples. So I am trying to contact them to tell them, ‘listen- it’s time to transfer custodianship of these prized possessions back to where they belong. For instance, I’ve done a ton of weddings over a 30-year period (although he discontinued the service when his beloved wife passed away in 2007). I want them to come and reclaim their entire set of wedding photos, not just one or two. We are only asking $20, which is practically giving it away. For the digital files, we are asking $30,” Butler said.

The studio’s official closing date was August 26th.

“I’ve extended the date, Butler said. I’m really concerned with hearing from my former clients because I think that perhaps they do not understand the value of these treasures. I want them to get them, put them in their safe deposit box. Many[of these families] parents living, their grandparents are no longer living., their buddies…their memories.When you have the original source — either digital files or film-negatives — you can take that stroll down memory lane as long as you want to, and can actually print this material.

Butler cited what he considers to be an alarming trend of the reliance upon low quality, low resolution digital capturing devices to preserve the times of people’s lives.

“I understand the instant gratification of a selfie – I’m not knocking that. But I am concerned that people do not augment that with professionally taken, flattering portraits of themselves and their families. When you look at a history book, and see a picture of Fredrick Douglass, and look at the fire in his eyes, you can feel that.”

Butler is concerned with the preservation of family photos given the modern conundrum of password –protected media and technological device crashes. The whole instant gratification aspect of digital photography is short sighted, and is not taking posterity into account.

“Whether it’s the next generation or the generation after that, what kind of [photographic memories] are they going to have then?”

George Butler

George Butler

Butler explained that full-service professional photography is both a skill and an art form, much more than a novice requesting people to say “cheeseburger” and pressing a button.

Butler Prestige Photography has worked with thousands of clients, included many of Philadelphia’s  community leaders and influential residents. One of those clients was the Philadelphia Sunday SUN’s founder and former NAACP Philadelphia Chapter President, the late J. Whyatt Mondesire. As October 4th, 2016 marks the first year since his untimely passing. Butler remembers well the day Jerry had his portrait session at the studio.

“Because Jerry was known for his cowboy hats, I insisted that we take some incorporating the hat. The only thing I didn’t incorporate was the cigar – but the hat had to be in there. We had a good time. Jerry, like myself, was very opinionated. He loved the photo. When you walk by the photo [which hangs in the SUN office], you feel a presence, that he is still with us. When people[in the future] want to know ‘Who was the founder of the Philadelphia Sunday SUN?’ There he is, on his own wall of fame,” Butler reflected.

Another memorable client was the late Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan, founder of OIC Industries.

“His stature was tall, very imposing, but very gracious. When he received the Tocqueville Award [the Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award of the United Way of America] a firm out of Washington, DC hired me to do a monumental photograph of him. Not many people have seen that photograph. I gave it to one of the members of Zion (Baptist Church), where Sullivan was the senior pastor for many years. It was so impressive. This photograph was taken when I was working out of my former home. Dr. Sullivan arrived around 7:30 in the morning; I offered him coffee, and we got to work. He said that those were the best portraits of him ever taken. I still have some of them,” Butler said.

Butler stressed the global power of professional photography, and it’s contribution to both history and an individual’s legacy.

“ It’s big, like life is,” he said.

If you or your family have been  clients of Butler Prestige Photography over the last 30 year, and are interested in purchasing your family portraits, negatives or digital files before they are disposed of, please contact George Butler at (215) 849-9393 for an appointment to arrange a pickup time. He can also be reached through the website at, or on Facebook at

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