A Company of High Tech Images

WHEN reproductions of paintings were needed for an exhibition at Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow, the task was given to Color Group Imaging Labs in Hawthorne.

The company reproduced 3 1/2-by-7-foot, double-panel displays of paintings from the late 1600’s to the early 1700’s from 4-by-5-inch transparencies for the exhibition called ”Cross Roads and Cross Rivers: Diversity in Colonial New York.”

Marc Weinstein, president of Color Group, said museum curators are especially sensitive to color, light and form. ”They require a lot of very painstaking work, but, coming from a fine arts background, I get a lot of satisfaction when I see a museum project of ours on display,” he said.

Kate Johnson, curator for Historic Hudson Valley, which operates six landmark properties, including Philipsburg Manor, said: ”We have worked with Color Group for many years. They are very experienced in using state-of-the-art equipment. Their high-resolution-scanning, 4-by-5 color transparencies and slides of the paintings have helped make this an exceptional exhibition, which has drawn attention from historians and archaeologists around the country.”

The exhibition, the largest ever displayed at Philipsburg, Ms. Johnson said, not only depicts the early commercial history of the United States but also the cultural diversity of the people brought together by various business ventures of the Philipse family.

”It’s the double stamp of commerce and cultural diversity that has marked New York from the very beginning,” Ms. Johnson said. ”We borrowed paintings and prints showing various groups in pursuit of trade from collections throughout the United States and Canada.”

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And in the spirit of the Philipse family, Ms. Johnson observed that the task of reproducing the paintings for the exhibition was given to a local concern. ”In its day the Manor of Philipsburg was an important commercial center.” she continued. ”According to historians, both Frederick Philipse and his son Adolph made a point of using local suppliers and artisans in their business ventures.”

Mr. Weinstein said museum clients are only part of the mix of his business. ”Our customers run the gamut from professional photographers, artists and illustrators to teenagers who want larger-than-life posters on the spot,” he said, ”to companies with names like International Business Machines, Philip Morris, Reader’s Digest and Lillian Vernon. Walk-in trade is tremendous. At least 200 people a day use the equipment we have in our ‘while you wait’ lobby.”

The lobby lab, staffed by four technicians who offer advice and guidance to customers for making things like view graphs, laser copies, photographic prints from negatives or transparencies up to 8 by 10 inches or as large as 2 by 3 feet. Additional equipment in the lobby allows customers to enlarge, reduce and crop their images on the computer. Customers create stylized prints, calendar layouts, magazine covers and prints to fit wallets, either 3 by 5 inches or 5 by 7 inches.

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Color Group, which Mr. Weinstein said is the largest concern of its kind in Westchester, dates back to 1946 when it was called Reuben’s Studio of Color, a two-man photo studio in Brooklyn. In 1969 it was bought by Mr. Weinstein’s father, Sam Weinstein, a commercial photographer, who moved his company to Hawthorne.

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”I bought my dad out in 1988 when he retired,” Mr. Weinstein said. ”He flunked retirement and now is back into business. He owns a one-hour photo studio. I learned the business from him, working in the lab during high school and college. I still remember listening to the Watergate hearings in the dark room.”

Mr. Weinstein, 47, a graduate of Pratt Institute with a degree in fine arts, began his career as a freelance photographer. ”Basically, we’re still doing the same thing: providing a broad base of clients with processing, custom printing in color and black and white, enlargements and photographic services, but the electronic equipment we use is vastly different from my dad’s tools of the trade,” he said.

Digital photography now accounts for 50 percent of the company’s business. ”Our rapid growth over the last 10 years depended a lot on digital imaging,” Mr. Weinstein said. ”That is the use of computers to scan photos and create large reproductions with amazing fidelity.” With the IRIS system, which Color Group uses, art reproductions can be checked for accuracy before going to press, resulting in a saving of time and money in the production of art books and limited editions.

”Digital has now taken over all commercial jobs such as trade show work and design compositions,” Mr. Weinstein said, adding that he expects strong growth in the digital imaging sector of his business, which is expected to post sales of $2.3 million this year.

State-of-the-art electronic equipment requires a large capital investment. A giant color copier, for instance, costs $250,000, and Mr. Weinstein’s rule of thumb is that each new piece of equipment must return its purchase price within a year.

”If it doesn’t pan out that way, we’ve made a bad buy,” he said, adding that the industry has changed so much and so rapidly that ”old-timers wouldn’t recognize it.”

”In their day,” he said, ”they depended on chemistry, placing pictures in the developer, hanging them out to dry, maybe retouching with an airbrush. The airbrush is extinct. The only thing that remains the same is the styling. The shot is always set up to show the subject to the best advantage. Everything else in the industry has changed, but the quality is higher than ever.”

The ability to clone pictures and paintings has expanded the consumer market. ”We can now faithfully reproduce and restore treasured family portraits,” Mr. Weinstein said. ”We can even reproduce on canvas so that every member of the family can have a copy of what looks like the original painting. For example, at Christmas we did a 1960’s pastel of a little boy. The son’s wife always admired it so his parents gave her the copy.”

The company still occupies its site in Hawthorne, but the space has tripled to accommodate the expanding business. ”We have 24 people, a very good group,” Mr. Weinstein said. ”What’s hard is finding people for the dark room. Everybody wants to work on computers.”