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Abbass Studios Ltd.

  • Abbass
  • Corporate body
  • 1946-Present

The Abbass family emigrated from Lebanon to Cape Breton at the turn of the 20th century. With his wife, Lilly Khattar, Jobe Abbass built a home on Townsend Street in Sydney, N.S. and together raised twelve children. It is in this building that three of those children, George, John and Anthony started Abbass Studios in the summer of 1946.

While still in high school at Sydney Academy, George took a job as an apprentice at Meyer’s Photography, a national chain. In 1941, after graduating from high school, his brother John also secured a job with Meyers where they both learned the craft of photography. Eventually they began private work contracting jobs with the Post Record and Chronicle Herald newspapers. In January of 1943 four of the Abbass boys, George, John, Joe and Ferris, enlisted to serve during World War II. They left their younger brother Anthony (Tony), who was too young to enlist, in charge of their Post and Herald contracts. When the brothers returned from war, they received a stipend from the government to open their own business.

Abbass Studios opened its doors July 18, 1946 in the family home on Townsend Street in Sydney, N.S. . The studio offered photo finishing, portraits and commercial photography. By the mid-1960s Abbass Studio served all of the Maritime Provinces. The company built a photo finishing plant in Moncton, New Brunswick and purchased stores in New Castle, New Brunswick. The brothers eventually brought the Econo-Color Camera Stores and Studios franchise from Sherman Hines.

Abbass Studios captured and continues to document the diverse economic, political and cultural heritage of the area. The business is still in family hands and run by John’s sons Blaise and John. The Townsend Street building was demolished in 2014 and Blaise Abbass now operates Abbass Studios, Sydney from his home. John Abbass runs the store at Scotia Square Mall in Halifax.

Shedden Studio

  • Corporate body
  • 1916-1977

Shedden Studio was founded by David Thompson Shedden in 1916. Mr. Shedden continued to work part-time as a meat cutter until the business gained traction within the local community. In 1930 the eldest of David Shedden's children, Stanley, began working as a photographer for the Studio. He was responsible for taking the photograph of aviator Beryl Markham's plane crash in Baleine, Nova Scotia in 1936. This photograph ran in the New York Times and this negative along with a selection of others are still held by the Shedden family in a private collection. Tragically, Stanley succumbed to illness at the young age of 26. Prior to serving overseas during WWII, David’s other son Leslie, trained as a photographer. When he returned in 1945, he started working with his father at the studio and took over operations when David died in 1948.

Just before Stanley began working with his father, a fire in 1929 destroyed all earlier negatives of the commercial studio. Although there is speculation that Sheddon Studio was contracted by local coal company British Empire and Steel Corportation (BESCO), the negatives no longer exist. This loss was further compounded with the destruction of more negatives before the sale of the company to Cyril McDonald in 1977.
The remaining negatives document the commercial activity of the studio from 1948 to the mid-1970s. The collection consists of portraiture, wedding, anniversary, school groups and graduation photography. Religious ceremonies and social events located mainly in Glace Bay and surrounding areas are also included. A separate grouping of negatives documenting industrial contracts with the Dominion Steel and Coal Company (DOSCO) from 1948-1968 also survived.
McDonald continued to provide reproduction prints on request until 2006. At this time, he decided to donate the first grouping of Shedden negatives to the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University. McDonald donated the remaining Shedden Studio negatives to the archive in January, 2016 and no longer provides photography services.