In historic Newport mansion, a photographic twist on collaborative spaces

Local artists use studio with their clients

NEWPORT, Ky. -- Most collaborative work spaces are filled with people using computers as their main work tool. At Studio 821 in Newport, however, it's cameras and lights with a side of makeup and fashion that fill this nearly 10,000-square-foot space.

The workspace was set up for photographers by non-photographers Ron and Monica Pies of Newport in a 150-year-old former mansion and Order of United American Mechanics fraternal lodge on York Street. It's been in the works for four years, with the final studio completed in spring 2016.

"It's brilliant, really. There's a lot of studios that rent their space by time, but what Ron has done is pretty amazing," said Brian Girton, owner of Cincinnati Boudoir.

The various studios provide variety as well as access to makeup stations, including three behind the infinity screen in the basement, which makes it easy for models to get models.

It's not a location to find a photographer, but a place where photographers bring clients for studio work, said Pies. The studio space is stocked with a variety of props, from soft materials for baby shoots to soft gowns for pregnant women to furniture and beds.

The space encourages creativity, said Ron Pies. Think a bath of milk and Cheerios, or ballet dancers posing in upstairs windows, or very private boudoir shots in the carriage house.

Studio 821 has five studios, including what was once a ballroom with original tin ceiling, a white room at the back of the main building, an infinity wall in the basement and the restored carriage house behind the main structure. Completed in March, the carriage house features a fireplace, bookshelves, bed and Victorian furniture, including a clawfoot tub.

Member photographers pay for a number of hours of access per week and have first priority to available space. Monica Pies said the membership list stays at around 20. Most members are from Greater Cincinnati, but non-members also come from Louisville, Nashville, Dayton, Detroit and more.

"Non-members are regulars, too," said Ron Pies.

The shared studio has allowed both Girton and Rose Bradley, owner of Rose Petals Photography, to grow their studio business. Bradley, a retired Boone County teacher, started her photo career four years ago as one of the first members of Studio 821. She photographs everything from bridal to newborns to Cin City Burlesque cast members.

"I have a lot of repeat customers because I have multiple places in one building to shoot their family photos," Bradley said. "I've looked at studios in Ohio. Nothing compares."

As with Studio 821, Rose Petals Photography relies mainly on word of mouth and Facebook for promotion.

It's $50 an hour for nonmembers. Membership begins at $200 for 10 hours a month and goes up from there.

Girton said his monthly membership gives him 24/7 access with priority to book a studio over a non-member. He started shooting boudoir at the request of a friend and then decided to focus on it as he changed careers from a counselor to photographer. His boudoir shots run from PG to risque, and his more traditional photography -- brides, moms-to-be, dancers -- is under the name BFG.

Photographers can also arrange for a hair and makeup artist or clothing stylist for clients. Trina Paul, owner of Pout Studio, has a space in the building to do makeup, as do a handful of others. Paul was looking for a space to do a trial makeup session for wedding parties when one of the photographers introduced her to the studio.

Her space, which is white and pink, is at the front of building across from a space where photographers can show clients photos on a big screen.

This photo was taken in tha window of the upstairs ballroom at Studio 821. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Laubacher Photography)

"I built a lot of relationships with the photographers, and we collaborate on hair and makeup for photo shoots," said Paul, who moved into the studio in March.

Paul and Bradley appreciate the collaborative aspect.

"It's so nice to be around other positive entrepreneurs," Paul said. "It's just an extra bonus."

Bradley said photographers also help their colleagues -- anything from lending equipment to offering advice.

The Pies won the 2017 Newport Excellence in Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse of a historic building, and the studio was featured in the recent "Beyond the Curb" tour in Newport. The couple bought the 1860s building four years ago.

The busy season for Studio 821 is about to begin, with everything from holiday family photos to boudoir photos for gifts, and the ballroom will be set up with a variety of sets.

People who want to have photos taken at Studio 821 can ask their preferred photographer to contact the Pies, or the couple can recommend a photographer.

Find them at Studio821 on Facebook.

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