Written by William Bryant Rozier
Starlight Photography, owned by William Darnell Miller, finally budged from its previous spot on Calhoun Street, its home since 1995. Miller started leasing the studio before he even had a camera. Occasionally helping out a photographer friend turned into an opportunity to do it for himself, in his own place. The friend lent backdrops and a wind-up film camera.
There wasn’t signage above his studio. The company name, store hours, and phone number appear on the window, with some senior pictures, wedding shots, and quinceañeras portraits…folks walked by and inquired if the photographer sold dresses.
The building at the corner of Rudisill Blvd. and Calhoun St., that housed Starlight (and that Subway) grew old and into the stage of that’s crazy to fix. Out of date, according to Miller, the building had only one boiler for all of the tenants. So the owner razed it; a Subway/Hardees combination is currently under construction.
Miller moved into his new spot on January 1, 2018, 4347 South Anthony Blvd., in the strip mall with the pawnshop and the hair place, right by His House Men’s Apparel.
His last day at the Calhoun location was December 31. “I knew for a couple of months [about moving], but I procrastinated,” Miller said. He got too busy. He still does his weddings, banquets, retirement parties, but it’s the previously-mentioned quinceañeras that keep him running the most these days.
“For first six months [here], the business was slow,” Miller said, “but [right now] I have two weddings haven’t even looked at yet, two quinceañeras I haven’t looked at and another one this weekend.” And he’s already booked for two more in 2019.
Starlight has sustained because of accessibility, a strong work ethic, and word-of-mouth. Miller doesn’t advertise; he barely does Facebook; some of the most recent posts were from 10 years ago and his daughter did those.
Photography has become a marginalized profession. “I used to have 12 or 15 seniors. Now I get two or three because their friends are taking pictures with their cellphones or tablets.” Cellphone and iPad/tablet cameras, digital cameras with their automatic settings and implied credibility, have made it difficult for the professional to maintain relevancy.
Miller found the Anthony location through the strip mall’s owner, Corey Brown, a former photography client back in the day. They became good friends and sometimes Brown would bring people to Miller’s old club, Ellington’s On Broadway, a bar and restaurant “as big as a block.” It had an internet café, a couple of fireplaces, and a bar as long as the one that used to be at the old CS3.
Everybody went. Even Rod Woodson, another Miller client, who brought a party to Ellington’s with Colts’ cheerleaders and Ray Lewis (Ray Lewis-dance was done).
Miller’s photography business, at its peak during the days of pre-digital, everybody-got-a-camera photography, helped paid for the club. This was the mid to late 90s, when the internet took off.
One of Miller’s employees put the club’s menu online and the name of the Duke Salad, along with the business’ name, caught the ire of Duke Ellington’s lawyer who forced Miller to change the name. It became Starlight on Broadway.
Running a photography studio and a club became too much, so he closed the latter. The only thing he misses about it was the club’s annual tradition of feeding the homeless and giving away a bar full of toys to children on Christmas. “You didn’t have to wait in line [for food],” Miller said, “my staff would come to you and ask for your order.”
On his desk at his photography studio rests a stack of photos from Hakim Muhammad’s wedding. Anesta Taylor came to pick up a picture; she told Miller he did a great job. And there’s a 20x30 photograph that needs framed, from a quinceañera. It will be one less thing to do.
Portions of this article were taken from article originally published by Ebony.com, written by the article’s writer.
Starlight Photography | 4347 South Anthony Blvd. | Fort Wayne, Indiana 46806 | 260.744.7089