A&A Studios

A Oak Park camera shop offers old-school cameras and cool photo booths.
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaMedium format plastic cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaDarkroom and camera epherma at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaShelf of goods at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaPassport cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaPolaroid Land camera at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaInstant cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaPolaroid at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaBox of cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaPhotography epherma at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaMedium format vintage cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaKodak vintage camera at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaHandmade Pinhole cmaera at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaLeica rangefinder at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaWhen a customer called ahead and said he was planning to propose to his girlfriend in this photo booth, Anthony slowed the booth�s timer by a couple of seconds so the guy would have enough time to get the ring out. Who wants to bet they�ll have a photo booth at their wedding?
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaGreeting cards at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaKodak instamatic cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaThe impossible project goods at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaThe impossible project goods at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaFilm for Polaroid cameras may be expensive (around $25 for 10 pics), but the actual cameras are affordable. A&A occasionally has one for as low as $15.
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaVIntage cameras and art by the owner at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole Radja35mm cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaThis Imperial 127 camera is one of Anthony�s favorites. �It�s a great little camera with a cool, retro design,� he says.
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A is the only Impossible Project partner in the Chicagoland area.
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaCamera necklaces at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaTwin lens reflex cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaMagicubes and vintage cameras at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaAnthony of A&A Studios, Oak Park explains the PDQ camera
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaAndrea of A&A Studios, Oak Park shows an SX-70 camera.
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaVintage photobooth at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaFilm at A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaKodak Instmatic A&A Studios, Oak Park
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Photograph: Nicole RadjaA&A Studios, Oak Park
By Kevin Aeh |
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Anthony Vizzari and his wife, Andrea, didn’t plan to open a vintage camera shop. The couple own and run the successful 312photobooth company and needed an office space near their Oak Park home in 2010. “We thought it’d be nice to have a few cameras up for sale,” says Anthony, an avid collector of old-school cameras. The small selection of cameras grew into a display area that now fills most of the space and last year became a full-fledged store. “You start as the collector and the collector usually ends up becoming the dealer,” he says. “It was an organic development.”

Not to mention perfect timing. As camera-phone apps such as Instagram (which lets you make your photos look as if they were taken in 1977) become more popular, more people are becoming interested in retro cameras and film. “It’s funny, [those apps] are trying to re-create what these cameras actually do,” Anthony says. Adds Andrea, “Those appshave increased the appreciation for that whole analogue aesthetic.”

A wall of Polaroid cameras proves the art form isn’t dead. And the store’s collaboration with the Impossible Project (which saved the last Polaroid production plant and found new ways to produce instant film materials) means shoppers have access to film that works in Polaroid cameras. Anthony says a lot of people come into the shop for the Impossible instant film, then gravitate toward the other vintage merch.

A&A is all about new lives for these relics. The store holds monthly workshops featuring demonstrations of new ways to use vintage cameras. For example, a recent get-together showed customers hacks for using 35mm film in a 126 cartridge. And even if you have no interest intaking pictures, a lot of these retro cameras could be used as cool home decor items.

Another draw to the store (The Vizzaris say out-of-town customers often tell them they’re visiting Oak Park just to stop by) are the classic photo booths. A&A refurbishes and makes vintage-looking photo booths that can be found everywhere from the Empty Bottle to a photo booth exhibit in Switzerland. The store features three working booths, and many folks stop in for a quick $3 photo session. One couple even got engaged in the booth. “People always hang onto their photo booth strips,” Andrea says. “These [photo booths and cameras] are all about the experience, and then you get to a keep a great photo.”

A&A Studios, 128 Harrison St, Oak Park (312-278-1144).

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