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Picture Perfect: Glamour Shots El Paso’s success story as one of two left in the U.S.

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- El Paso is home to one of the last Glamour Shots photography studios left in the country.

At its peak, there were 350 Glamour Shots studios throughout the country. Now there are only two remaining. The other location is located in New Jersey.

The photography studios were popular in the 1990s as regular customers were transformed into Hollywood models. Customers underwent a glamorous photo session after getting their makeup and hair professionally done.

Inside the business today you'll find customers picking up their portraits, employees busy at work and the owner perfectly positioning subjects during their close-up.

Leonora Campbell, the owner of the El Paso location, said she never had an interest in photography, but she said she fully embraced the business and everything that came with it.

Today you'll find her with a camera in hand and carrying around a step stool inside her studio.

"I come up with so many ideas when I am taking the pictures, here comes another idea and another idea," she said.

In 1991 an opportunity emerged for her to own several Glamour Shots locations across the El Paso area.

Back then Glamour Shots were only found inside shopping malls- a popular spot for teenagers- but years later Campbell would move her business to a strip mall off of I-10 in East El Paso. A move many questioned, including another Glamour Shots owner.

"He gave me his blessing because I would never make it, and it is a drastic change because in the mall we have a walk-by, here we have a drive-by," she said.

Despite the move, Campbell said it helped boost business since it provided more space to take pictures.

Fashion and hairstyles also drastically changed. In the early years, portraits were only taken from the waist up and sequins and feathers were part of every wardrobe.

Eventually, styles changed and technology continued to advance. Most Glamour Shots photography studios across the country were forced to close their doors.

Business hasn't slowed down for Campbell, however. She continues to take tens of thousands of pictures every year. She thought this was the case for all Glamour Shots locations, until recently.

Campbell was shocked to learn most locations had closed.

"I work so much, and I do so much here that I never noticed that everybody had closed down. The only thing I can say is that I have always been involved in the business," she said.

She knows she has played an integral part in the studio's success.

"One thing I noticed in Glamour Shots that some of the owners would just hand over the key and they would leave. That isn't right. The owners have to be involved. Especially with something like Glamour shots that was so different."

Campbell also attributes her success to the business's ability to adapt. "I love the progress," she said.

Campbell said she gets most of her ideas from the people she is photographing.

"I am always checking the behavior of the seniors when I go to the schools and they give me the ideas. Yes. The way they sit down, the way they behave, yeah, I use it. I just master the whole idea, but it is just them. Yes. It's really cool."

Nothing is off-limits for Campbell. Nowadays she is at liberty to photograph all types of subjects.

Throughout the year she photographs students, teachers, professionals, families, and even pets.

Campbell has even become a local celebrity. Most people remember her as the lady behind the camera at Glamour Shots.

"And then I say, how old am I? How many people have we taken pictures of?" Campbell jokes.

She doesn't plan to retire anytime soon. She knows there are more pictures waiting to be taken.

Campbell says she is grateful for her loyal employees, some of whom have been with her since her early years.

She said it is special knowing she has been there for so many important moments for El Pasoans. Campbell understands the Glamour Shots legacy continues to live on.

"I have never been afraid of doing what I want to do and doing this for so many years, my passion is tremendous. I never get tired," she said.

You can scroll through a slide show of the Glamour Shots photos sent in by ABC-7 viewers here.

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Rosemary Montañez

ABC-7 reporter and weekend anchor


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