Ada — Being a bit of a history buff, I have decided to write about how the Wellington family and Dean Wellington Studio came to be in Ada. I have fond memories of being raised in Ada and in “the studio.” From the three different studio locations, from the two Wellington photographers, from film to digital and even a ghost story or two, I would like to share with you a little Ada history through “my lens.”
For me, it all starts in Seminole, Okla., in April 1955, on a stormy night ... my mother, Joy Wellington, loves telling this story about a man who came to our house needing help after he had run off the road and landed in a ditch. My father told him he couldn’t help him. For those who knew my dad, I am sure you are surprised to hear such a tale about this kind and gentle man! He told the man he couldn’t help him because he had to take his wife to the hospital because she was having a baby ... ME!
My father and mom met in Coffeeville, Kan., after dad got out of the Marines. Dad used his GI bill to go to Oklahoma Baptist University to pursue a degree in photography. After graduating, my father, Dean Wellington, worked as a photographer for Jim White in Seminole for a couple of years, all the while dreaming of owning his own studio.
The following winter, the Wellingtons officially made the move to Ada when my dad bought the N.B. Stalls Studio, previously operated by Margerette Barns and Guy Logston. It was located in the 100 block of South Broadway next door to the American Building. Many memories were created in our first studio, on and off film! With a young Dean and Joy Wellington came four children, Libby, Rodd, Joni and Daniel. Dad was the photographer and also processed his own film and developed prints. In the days before color all work was done custom in the studio. Joy was office manager and daycare operator. We were raised at the studio; therefore, we were the models for all of dad’s convention and display prints and have a beautiful collection of us growing up.
I was always very curious and always underfoot, but through these experiences of studio life I fell in love with photography. My first experience developing prints was with a young man named Dave Davis, who helped my dad with darkroom printing. I was always standing on a stool so I could see what Dave was doing when he was developing prints. When he put the exposed print in the first chemical the paper was blank, then an image would appear. It was amazing! My question was “How does that happen?” Dave told me there were invisible witches with ink on their brooms painting it on the blank sheet of paper. Even after Photo Chemistry class and years of printing and developing, Dave’s explanation stayed with me.
Throughout history there have been many great photographers. Some of my favorites are Phillipe Halsman, who I got to hear speak while I was in college; Paul Gittings who I worked for in Dallas after college; and N.B. Stall, who owned the studio we bought.
For me, Dean Wellington left a legacy that is timeless and priceless. My dad’s love for people was captured on film and was printed on paper as his artwork for a record in time. Our customers were more than just customers, they became friends.
(Rodd Wellington is a professional photographer who teaches art at Ada High School, his alma mater.)