Zniewski retires from studio after 48 years

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 10/22/96.

Frederic and Bertha Zniewski opened a photography studio in Paynesville in August of 1948. At age 76, Frederic decided it was time to call it quits and retire. ãAfter working a year in Minneapolis, we decided we wanted to move closer to our families in St. Cloud and Sauk Rapids. We looked for a town with an empty building and no photographer,ä Frederic said. He was 28 and wanted to go into business for himself.

They opened Fredericâs Studio on James Street where American Family Insurance is now located. ãWe had the whole first floor with an apartment in back. The building used to be a bank at one time and Frederic used the safe in the basement as his darkroom to develop film,ä Bertha said. Five years later, they purchased their present home and business site plus an empty lot next door at auction for $8,600. They also expanded their business to Eden Valley and opened a studio there in 1953. The studio was closed two years ago.

ãWe took pictures of everything that came our way and put in a lot of long hours,ä they said. Frederic took the pictures while Bertha, an art major, did the color work. Once color film started being used, Bertha didnât have to color the pictures as much. The couple took senior pictures, families, train wrecks, graduations, weddings and more. One of the more unusual photo opportunitys was when a doctor asked if Frederic would take his picture riding an elephant while the circus was in town.

Besides taking pictures for area residents, Frederic took the majority of the pictures for the Paynesville Press up until 1974 when Peter and Lynne Jacobson took over. ãOne day Earle LeMasurier came knocking at our door at 5 a.m. He wanted Frederic to take a picture of the train wreck for the paper,ä Bertha recalls.

ãAnother time, Earle called that a robbery had just occurred at the corner station, Ever Ready, and he needed a picture. He didnât bother to tell us that Rick Johnson had been shot in the robbery,ä she added. Earle and Frederic often went up on plane rides to take pictures of the community for the paper. ãIt wasnât unusual for Earle to sent me off into the countryside to take pictures and I couldnât find the place,ä Frederic said. ãAnother time I was to take a picture of a prisoner of war and when I drove into his yard, a big St. Bernard greeted me. I stayed in the car until somebody came to my rescue.ä

Frederic recalls Father Varley stopping to visit every Friday. Father Varley would always ask at which church he had wedding pictures to take on Saturday and then proceed to tell him about the priestÎs personality. In one year, Frederic took pictures at 74 weddings. ãI think that was a record for me,ä he said.

In the early years of photography, all the negatives measured 4 by 5 inches compared to small negatives people work with today. His first camera was a 5 by 7 view camera. Another of his early cameras is on display at the Paynesville Historical Society Museum. As the Zniewskis sort through the thousands of negatives, they are donating those dealing with church history and the local businesses to the Paynesville Historical Society. They are selling the negatives to families who are interested in having early family photos.

ãWe really enjoyed working with the people of the community. We have had a lot of good customers,ä they said. ãOne of the highlights of my career was when I achieved Master Photographer status in 1973,ä Frederic said.

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