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An era of photography ending in Havre

Helmbrecht announces will close studio, archived photos available in August

Jade Helmbrecht has announced that later this year she will be closing Helmbrecht Photography, a business operated by her family for the past 76 years.

Helmbrecht said the business will be closed from now through Aug. 1 as she prepares and archives what is in the building, reopening so people can order archived photographs.

Helmbrecht said she will not be taking orders for new photographs.

She took over the business after her father, Steve Helmbrecht, died last year.

Jade Helmbrecht declined to provide details on the closure this morning, but said she would be available to provide more information in July.

Three generations of Helmbrecht Photography

Helmbrecht Photography, which Steve Helmbrecht said in 2020 was the longest-operating-in-the-same-location photography business in the state, and one of the oldest photography studios still operating in the state, has been a mainstay for generations.

The building it is in has always been for photography, he said, being built in the 1920s to house a photography studio.

Vern Helmbrecht took over the business after he returned from serving in the U.S. Navy. Helmbrecht was a photographer for the Navy, deployed to North Africa during the war.

After leaving the service, Helmbrecht bought the business from the previous photographer who operated in the building, Myrt Fullmer.

Helmbrecht started setting up in the building in November 1945, but Fullmer operated into 1946, when Helmbrecht started his own studio.

Vern Helmbrecht was a mainstay in photography in the area and well-respected throughout the industry.

Steve Helmbrecht said he helped his father as a child, doing more and more work as he grew older and that his grandfather sometimes helped out as well. He said Vern Helmbrecht would drive hundreds and hundreds of miles to different jobs across the state and remembers him being in the studio until 11 p.m. developing and processing photos.

Steve Helmbrecht earned a degree in journalism in 1975 from University of Montana - he also served in the state Legislature and served in the U.S. Army Reserves - and apprenticed under his father from 1979 to 16981.

He worked for a photography company in the midwest for a time before buying Helmbrecht Studio from his father in 1983.

Helmbrecht watched the evolution of the industry, from when many photographs still were black and white to the use of digital cameras and computerized processing programs and drone photography.

Hemlbrecht was a mainstay for photography in the region including taking school and team photos, photographing events and taking portraits.

He worked until dealing with his cancer precluded it. He died of complications from cancer Oct. 21, 2021.

Closing up the business

Jade Helmbrecht said part of the reason she is closing the studio for now is so she can go through all of the photographs in the studio - some were given to her grandfather by Fullmer - and to organize the archive to facilitate people picking up family photographs.

She said she will be happy to help people who request photos when she reopens Aug. 1 for photography archive retrieval.


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