Personal Studio fonds

Personal Studio.
Personal Studio fonds. - 1946-1996.

62.5 m of graphic material (ca. 175,000 negatives and 80,000 proof prints) : b&w and col. ; 10 x 13 cm or smaller.


Robert T.G. Nicol, professional photographer and owner of Personal Studio, was born Aug. 17, 1922 in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. In 1927 the family moved to Stratford, Ont., where he attended local public and high schools. In 1940 his family moved again, this time to Kitchener, Ont; he finished high school at Kitchener Collegiate that year. His photographic career had started earlier, in 1939, when as a 16-year he took pictures of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they stopped in Stratford on June 6, 1939 as part of their Royal Tour of Canada. The drugstore where he took the negatives to be developed marketed the photographs which subsequently appeared in many publications.

Busy-B store, Waterloo

Busy-B store, Waterloo Town Square, 1964. Miss Canada visited the grand opening of the store. (image 64-173_9)

After completing high school Robert Nicol worked in a variety of jobs in Kitchener-Waterloo, including at Zapfe's Machine Shop, Waterloo Manufacturing and the Ontario Die Co. In 1945 he and an old school friend began to plan a photographic studio that opened for business on March 21, 1946, and of which Nicol was the sole owner by the fall of 1946. For the next fifty years Robert Nicol documented the Waterloo Region through personal and commercial photography. He pioneered the concept of wedding albums in the local area. He had started flying in 1961 and from that time on took aerial photographs as well as studio and candid photography. In the course of his career he maintained memberships in professional photographers' organizations as well as completing continuing photographic educational courses offered by those organizations. He retired as a professional photographer in 1996.

Robert Nicol married Marjorie Gray on Aug. 8, 1941 and had two children, a son and a daughter. Marjorie died in 1987. Robert Nicol married again in 1996 to Renie Andersen, a long-time companion.

Laurel Vocational School

Laurel Vocational School (later University Heights, and now the Waterloo campus of Conestoga College), near University and Weber in Waterloo, 1968. (image 68-5383_2)

Fonds consists of negatives and proof prints taken by Robert T.G. Nicol under the name of Personal Studio between 1946 and 1996. Studio, home portraits and candid photography of families and weddings, as well as commercial jobs for many local industries and businesses document comprehensively the growth and changes in the way of life in the Waterloo Region in the post-war era. Many nationally important companies employed Nicol, some as their "house photographer": these include B.F. Goodrich, Budd Automotive, Mutual Life Insurance Co., Bell Telephone, Electrohome, Raytheon, IBM and Greb Shoes. Many types of businesses are represented: storefronts and interiors of banks, clothing, department, music, furniture and grocery stores, dairies, factories, restaurants, hotels and motels, churches, service stations, car dealerships, service industries, construction trades and more.

Title from content of the fonds.

Donated in 2008 by Mr. Nicol.

Listing of the fonds is underway. Access is by an in-house database in Special Collections, University of Waterloo Library.

Personal Studio photographs related to Wilfrid Laurier University can be found at that institution's Special Collections Department, call number S719.

Personal Studio negatives of the University of Waterloo were acquired separately and can be found in the University archives, call number 2003-12.

Call number: GA 187