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A Nerd's World

Posted by Kate Fane / Posted on September 26, 2012

a nerds world torontoA Nerd's World has brought an eye-catching storefront to Bathurst St. south of Dupont. With a massive shelf of retro cameras bookended by walls of black and white portrait photography, the gallery is a far cry from the usual IKEA-adorned photography studio. But of course, the unconventional design makes complete sense if you've met owners Chris and Grace Hughes.

nerds world torontoFrom their distinctive dress code of bow ties and thick-framed eyeglasses, to the store's monochromatic design scheme, visitors to the studio get to know Chris and Grace's sensibilities from the get-go. It's a method of self-expression for the admitted photography "nerds," as well as damn good branding.

a nerds world torontoAs Chris explains it, "rather than put up our wedding photos, which to me is so inside the box, we put up our own work that we do on our personal time." Grace adds, "[customers] can definitely get to know us based on our photos. They talk to us, and after getting to know us they like our personality and go with it, too."

Self-taught photographers with 20 years of combined experience between them, Chris and Grace Hughes's have dedicated their lives to photography, and their enthusiasm for the medium is infectious. "If you have you a passion, self-taught is the best way," Chris tells me. "You don't need someone to tell you what to do. When we get home we're watching documentaries and reading books. It's never-ending, and there's no days off."

nerds world torontoChris and Grace were content to run A Nerd's World as a home-based business for eight years, and it wasn't until a chance drive-by along Bathurst that they discovered their new space. By the next day, the lease was signed. Now, after only three months in business, everything is done on site, with a studio and dark room in the basement. In addition to photography, A Nerd's World also offers logo, website, and graphic services, and employs two additional designers.

nerds world toronto
Clients so far have ranged from actors and students, to journalists for the Globe and Mail, and an owner of a Fortune 500 company. But regardless of their economic status, each customer must get their picture taken for the studio wall display. And for those without their own glasses, the store has a few loaner pairs to give out.

a nerds world torontoBesides the usual wedding and engagement packages, the company also offers unique portrait sessions, including the option of shooting in abandoned buildings. Getting access to the spaces often requires a fair bit of sneakiness, and the infamous Kodak Building No. 9 is cited as their favourite location.

nerds world torontoBut such risky shoots aren't the company's norm, at least not just yet. "Unfortunately, most clients choose to do same thing," says Chris. "They see the white wall and they want to shoot against it. We're not at a point where people are coming to us and saying 'you decide' what you want to do--your vision--but we're happy nonetheless."

a nerds world torontoWhatever the client ultimately decides, Chris and Grace still choose to rely on traditional photographic methods for their work. The couple's antique camera collection, the centrepiece to the studio, is absolutely mind blowing. Found through second-hand stores, by donation, and through good old Craigslist, Chris shows me with unreserved glee a 1970 Big Shot (Andy Warhol's camera of choice), a Hasselblad that traveled to the moon, and, most impressively, a 3-D camera from the First World War.

a nerds world torontoA third wall in the studio's back half houses the photographs developed from a camera the couple discovered during a trip to Pennsylvania. Depicting a family's road trip from the mid-50's, the shots are a fascinating insight into the lives of complete strangers. "On top of doing this as a business, we're historians," says Chris. "We'd like to save the history of photography in the digital era where everybody's a photographer. We like to take our time, bring out old cameras, and only take one or two photos a day versus this mass-production."

a nerds world torontoDespite only residing in the space for three months, the couple are already planning on expanding, possibly to house their overgrowing camera collection. "I could see a few of these in the city, it's going so well and people have been so encouraging," says Chris, "the positive feedback has been great. It makes the 14, 15, 16 hours a day go by a lot quicker."

Photos by Gloria Nieto

Discussion

25 Comments

Why / September 26, 2012 at 11:40 am
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I don't understand why photographers always claim they need all this equipment. I mean an iPhone 5 and instagram are all you really need for serious photograpy. Guess they're just happy throwing away their money *shrug*
Spadina / September 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm
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Big thanks to Why, for his/her hilarious parody of an ignorant dilettante. Well done!
Jack / September 26, 2012 at 12:21 pm
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All hipstered up and everything! The bow tie/thick black framed glasses are a nice added touch. Go to the pawn shops at Queen and Church and you'll probably find much better deals.
Michelle / September 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm
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I love this idea and will absolutely pay a visit. Kodak is in my blood since my grandfather worked at the old Weston plant for 40 years. We have some of those lovely vintage cameras in the family.
Pamela / September 26, 2012 at 01:56 pm
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I have been to this store, and it is amazing to just look at all the cameras and photographs. I have read the comment of "Why" and did not understand the comment to be quite honest (even if it was a joke). For someone to think that using a IPhone 5 and instagram is all you need for serious photography I completely disagree. The photography of Grace and Chris Hughes is absolutely phenomenal.
Marvindale II replying to a comment from Why / September 26, 2012 at 02:21 pm
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Man you REALLY don't understand one iota, do you, slave to the appletrolls.
mike / September 26, 2012 at 02:24 pm
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I bet the person doing the photography for this piece could feel being judged heavily.
Simon Carr / September 26, 2012 at 03:08 pm
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Love this concept. I hope they do really well.
Real nerd / September 26, 2012 at 03:08 pm
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The whole operation looked like nothing but posers with a cheap marketing gimmick. Are people really that easy to manipulate?
jack replying to a comment from Why / September 26, 2012 at 03:23 pm
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lol you're obviously not a photographer. its like asking a musician why he/she plays a physical instrument when it can all be done on a computer program
Josh / September 26, 2012 at 04:31 pm
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I was passing by a Nerds World this weekend and couldn't help but stop to admire their collection of beautiful vintage cameras. Grace saw us staring and invited us in to talk shop for a good 20 minutes. Her enthusiasm for her work was quite apparent and a little contagious. Worth the trip just to see all the amazing cameras they have on display.
Are you kidding me? replying to a comment from Why / September 26, 2012 at 07:29 pm
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Seriously? You think an iphone and instagram are professional tools? First of all, let me break down for you, the only thing instagram does is add a "vintage" effect to a crappy photo (drunk people most of the time) to try and make it look less crappy. Second YES, a professional photographer does need all that fancy schmanzy equipment! Why? Because they need to be able to control every element in the picture. The camera, because you need a powerful processor to get good quality images, the lenses because every single one allows you to create a different image and the lights??? Because fucking photography is all about light you moron and light is never perfect so you need to be able to create perfect light yourself!!
A couple of things an iphone doesn't let you do and those super expensive cameras do? Control exposure (iso, aperture, shutter speed), control depth of field, exposure bracketing, tethering and a vast array of other things a "pro" like you will never understand.
So yes, educate your dumb ass before you make idiotic statements
Mike Swiegot replying to a comment from Are you kidding me? / September 26, 2012 at 09:19 pm
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Ummmm....I'm pretty sure he was being sarcastic....which makes it all that much funnier since people are taking it personally.
the lemur / September 27, 2012 at 09:34 am
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Seems kinda neat (I don't totally get the concept, but whatever). I just don't know if it can survive - this stretch of Bathurst needs businesses that are more useful on a daily basis than a photo studio/website/graphic design office.
Jono / September 27, 2012 at 09:59 am
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I stopped by here a little while ago with a fellow photographer; the couple we met seemed really nice, and although they didn't know how to answer all of our questions, were very humble in admitting it -- a rare and wonderful trait. Make sure to ask how they got that Kodak Olympic flag if you stop by ; )

J->
Paul / October 3, 2012 at 11:32 pm
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I 1st saw something about this shop on twitt before the blog and decided to go. I met Grace when I went and I like that it's a place I could talk with other photography nerds like me. I really like polaroids and the wall of cameras were out of this world. I don't get why you low lifes talk down about new & unique spots when the prob is your probably boring!!! I swear it will leave you inspired or camera educated.

Lisa MacIntosh / October 9, 2012 at 03:31 pm
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I've been in...twice...if you haven't....GO!!!!
Daniel replying to a comment from Why / November 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm
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Stop talking before you embarrass yourself. Start by taking a photography class
Kev / December 4, 2012 at 11:19 am
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This place is amazing. The impressive camera collection sits alongside some great photography by the owners and a wall of found film that has been printed and framed. This wall is truly special. Also, the owner allowed my to view the slide inside the said 3d camera that was used in W1. Eery to say the least. I'm not going to say that we need more stores like these. This place is just fine being one of a kind. Pop down and show these guys some support.

Kev
Chris A. Hughes / January 15, 2013 at 08:45 pm
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We appreciate all of your comments (except the first one of course)

Thank you from A Nerd's World
Raymond replying to a comment from Chris A. Hughes / January 22, 2013 at 07:26 pm
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I used to be an avid photographer (self taught) but lost all my photo's in a fire. Fortunately my cameras were no where near the fire. I still have my Cannon FTQL SLR from the late 60's. I also have a couple of antique cameras like an old Kodak with bellows and the last patent date on it is 1918. I also have another camera with a push button to open the front revealing pop out bellow. Both are still in working condition but haven't inquired if film is still available for the 1918 Camera. If you have any interest in these cameras, email me and I will take pics of them with my digi cam.
hummerhugger / February 7, 2013 at 11:51 am
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Beautiful and erie.
TrayC replying to a comment from Pamela / July 19, 2013 at 11:09 pm
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I concur!
Someone replying to a comment from Mike Swiegot / January 20, 2014 at 01:40 pm
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No, I don't actually think the original post is joking. People who buy that hardware tend to be ignorant of the real world and think that the hardware there is "the best" when it really isn't. How many times have I heard someone commenting that it's "a really good camera" -- who clearly hasn't seen the massive yellow and pink tinting in certain conditions, doesn't see the massive noise and detail loss due to the small sensor, etc.
Juss / September 3, 2014 at 07:01 am
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HACKS

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