Robin Phillips was only 8 years old when he first began working in his father’s then-new photography studio on South Florida Avenue in the early 1960s. After decades as a full-time professional wedding and portrait photographer, Phillips, 68, says the time has come to sell his building and refocus his skills.
The Phillips Photographers building at 1505 S. Florida Ave. that Phillips inherited from his father, Dick Phillips, is scheduled to be sold to Patterson Publishing later this week. Patterson publishes The Lakelander magazine.
As he nears 60 years in the photography craft and business, Phillips said he is ready to transition away from weddings to a future focusing on photo restoration.
“I can do that at home,” he said. “Most people younger than me don’t have the patience [for restoration],” he said. “A lot of photos either have cracks or folds in the photography paper.”
Under the sales agreement with Patterson, Phillips will retain access to his former studio. While he will also continue doing headshots and an occasional wedding job, he said he has aged out of many wedding jobs.
“I’m not cool anymore,” Phillips joked. “Couples want a young woman in a dress wearing heels.”
Phillips said after his father first “dragged him in the door” of the business while he attended Southwest Elementary School, there were years of part-time work until his formal education was complete.
The first studio was at 1107 S. Florida Ave. behind what is now Hungry Howie’s in Dixieland. Then Dick Phillips constructed the current 3,800 square-foot building in 1962. A frame shop was added at the back of the building.
“I was shooting passport photos at 8 and finishing shooting weddings at 11 evenings or nights,” Phillips said. “At 14, I shot my first wedding by myself.”
Just as his father was known by Lakeland High School staff and students as the yearbook photographer, Phillips said in the mid 1970s he was in local churches shooting weddings on weekends and also working on the high school’s yearbook photos.
Phillips graduated from Stetson University as a history major while continuing with his professional photography studies. He met and married his wife, Leslie, in Lakeland after moving back from Deland.
He has earned several Professional Photographers of America degrees: the PPA Master of Photography degree and the PPA Craftsman Photographer degree, awarded through teaching and lecturing other photographers.
Around 1990, Phillips was president of Florida Professional Photographers, a statewide trade organization. His father held the same position in 1956.
Curt Patterson, president of Patterson Publishing, said purchasing the Phillips building will help his 10-year-old business grow. This is the company’s first purchase. Until now, Patterson said, the company has rented its offices and used studio space around Lakeland.
“We needed more space,” Patterson said. “We should be able to grow and we are growing.”
The entire business, a staff of eight as well as their equipment, will make the move.
“And we’re able to keep our employees together,” he said.
Besides the eight employees, Patterson said the group uses around 20 contractors.
Plans for the building’s renovations have yet to be released. The familiar Phillips Photography sign off South Florida Ave may look different. That’s because it was mostly destroyed during Hurricane Ian, Phillips said,
Patterson said a new sign will go up at some point.
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