Robinson Photography Studio
A Family Business
Leo Carey Robinson and his family arrived in Kalamazoo in 1923, having left Madison, Wisconsin, where for the previous two years he had operated a photography studio. Leo had learned the craft and business from his father Ralph. The family business, which included sons Chester and Richard, set up shop in a storefront at 426 West Michigan Avenue (formerly W. Main Street), focusing on the common product line and services of the era–commercial and portraiture photography. This first location was later demolished to make room for the building of the post office (aka Federal Court House). The family next moved to 346 S. Burdick Street (current home to Pop City Popcorn). Their storefront was a striking vision of modern fonts and eye-catching displays.
An example of one of Leo’s photographs:
After the sudden death of Leo from a heart attack in April 1942, the family continued to operate the Burdick Street studio until the late 1940s, when Chester and Richard moved the shop to 135 E. Michigan Avenue, and renamed the studio Robinson Bros. Photo Service.
“The new studio is specializing in photo finishing and in commercial, portrait, and candid photography, including home, children’s and wedding pictures.”
—Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 August 1947
Sometime in the 1930s, Fred West came on board to work with the two brothers. West was the brothers’ uncle on their mother’s side. Fred later took full control of the business in 1949, rebranding it West Studios in 1952.
Article written by Ryan Gage, Kalamazoo Public Library staff, September 2023
Kalamazoo Gazette, 17 August 1947
H 920 M481, Volume 27