Gibraltar has always had a strong connection with Her Majesty’s Navy, and many retired sailors and/or their relatives will pop in and be captivated with what they can find. Many are enthralled by simply walking around the shop with eyes glued to the walls plastered with hundreds of photographs, or perusing through the many albums available. There are hundreds and thousands of photos to look through and if you’re a true memorabilia buff – local especially – many hours can be spent enjoying the numerous scenes you’ll come across that’ll bring a smile of recognition as you relive those halcyon days of the past. There’s certainly much to see and relive at the last shop on our Main Street.
But photographs of naval and commercial ships and quirky reminiscences of the past are not just what Luis Photos has to offer: the studio is the top choice for your ID and passport photographs which are executed professionally.
Meanwhile, seeing to the needs of ship addicts, enhancing old pics and framing Gibraltar scenes or sentimental snapshots, keeps Mariangeles Mascarenhas pretty busy, “And through these continued visits from individuals from here and abroad we’ve made a number of friends,” she declares.
Lately, Mariangeles has also been thinking about taking on portrait work if time allows and during her rare, spare time, you may find her window dressing the shop’s two attention grabbing, photo-gem-displays… an unavoidable stop for a lengthy peak at what’s exhibited there as you walk by on your way to town or returning home!
Luis was one of the Rock’s top ‘image producers’ when it came to weddings, communions, and pretty much everything in between!
Husband Luis – sadly no longer with us – was a reliable and conscientious photographer for many years and one of the Rock’s top ‘image producers’ when it came to weddings, communions, re-unions, civic and military occasions and pretty much everything in between! He was also very sought after for portraits and models’ photo shoots for their promotional portfolios. “He was very particular about his work, always wanting to do things his way and not keen on suggestions from partners or relatives at wedding photo shoots for example, whether at the Alameda Gardens, the Rock Hotel or anywhere else.”
Clearly Luis knew what he wanted to achieve, was good at his job and needed to be allowed to get on with it and produce a professional standard for his clients, preferably without interruptions… “Oh yes, he really was a perfectionist!” Mariangeles remarks.
Thinking back, Mrs Mascarenhas tells me opening a photographic studio wasn’t an idea that came out of the blue. “No, Luis was always interested in photography as a hobby since he was very young and although we ran a couple of unrelated businesses which kept us busy, he was always on the go taking pictures, finding time whenever he could to pursue his much loved hobby to the point that we managed to set up a ‘sort of’ studio at the back of our shop at Marina Bay. At that time, a young lady – off one of the boats berthed at the marina – required some modelling photographs and asked if Luis would do them for her. He agreed and took on the job.”
Later, Mariangeles tells me an elderly gentleman asked if they could somehow enhance an old Alameda photograph that he brought in. With very limited experience for that type of work during those years Luis apparently was a touch bewildered as to what to do with the old photograph. “That’s right” Mariangeles recalls, “but as it turned out Luis worked on it and the gentleman was very happy with the result to the point other relatives and friends came by with more images that needed correcting and improving.”
Needless to say, the writing was on the wall for what was Luis’ labour of love which progressed on to developing his passion for taking pictures a full time, professional, business venture.
The land frontier with Spain closing for many years more than helped the Mascarenhas’ businesses – Casemates, Marina Bay and later a retail outlet in the ICC – to close down and that was followed by six months of downtime with not very much happening for the couple. A period which could be described as ‘half a year in limbo’. But the desire to do more with, and the affection for, the lens-and-shutter device was deeply embedded in Luis the photographer’s mind and was no doubt sorely missed, so husband and wife decided to open a studio somewhere and get seriously involved in what Luis loved most – taking pictures. “We took a risk but went ahead anyway and opened a small photo studio/shop next to the present one here at the end of Main Street, and to our great surprise it took off instantly,” Mariangeles remembers. “It was the mid-90s and we only charged £45 for a 6-photo shoot – today that would come to well over £100. I recall a young lady coming in with two suitcases full of clothes in the hope of getting Luis to agree to photograph her in as many outfit changes as she could get.”
Meanwhile, clients who they’d dealt with in the makeshift marina studio kept on requesting touch ups to improve their old photos. Word got around and others would want their pics correcting too… “Yes, and Luis would ask them if he could take copies of their photographs and that’s how slowly, our library was building to what we have today, not least because of a very generous offer to take close on 5,000 photographs of a gentleman’s ship collection which his wife donated to Luis Photos when her husband passed away. We were given considerable amounts by other individuals also!”
These days, Mariangeles runs the business in her shop at Main Street, where you’ll find a rich source of valuable illustrations of local and Gibraltar-linked history. As well as warships and aircraft, cruise liners, cargo ships and hundreds upon hundreds of Gibraltar scenes tracing our history through the centuries, there’s so much more! I remember Luis was always on the go when it came to military parades at the Covent, Casemates and outside the Gibraltar Parliament awaiting the arrival of a new Governor, opening of the Legal Year at the Law Courts and at other events – all those snapshots are there, and on the commercial side, very often he’d be busy clicking away his camera at expat, happy couples as they tied the knot at the Registry Office and later at the Alameda Gardens.
Thinking back, as one sometime does, there have been many commercial photographers working from their studios on the Rock… I recall Luque, Bugeja, Santos, Montegriffo and Shephard amongst others with premises located around town and in recent times. John Green and Nicky Sanchez had commercial outlets too. But that is no more. Today, just one remains…Luis Photos at 329c Main Street!