Driving up Main Street in Northampton, you will pass a landmark business that has served the area for 77 years. Many of our residents have called upon Fella Studios for photographs and portraits, from graduation to weddings and many special occasions.
Mr. Martin Fella Jr., a graduate of Northampton High School and former student of this writer, has continued the family legacy. During Martin’s high school years, he was everywhere with his trusty camera- in the halls, at concerts, class plays, sports events- and was photographer for the Amptennian, the high school yearbook.
The family roots take us back to Austria, where his grandfather, Oscar Fella, started the photography odyssey. Oscar opened a photo shop in his small village. An excellent photographer, he took photographs for a number of Austrian government committees.
Oscar and his wife Elizabeth decided to follow some of their neighbors and came to the land of opportunity, the United States.
When their ship entered New York Harbor, they saw the Statue of Liberty and, as millions of other immigrants, this symbol of freedom gave them hope for a better life.
They landed at Ellis Island and marveled at the large hall, while waiting in line to be checked and processed by hardworking government agents. After being processed, Oscar was told a photographer in Brooklyn was in need of a skilled photographer. He met the owner, Mr. George Lamb. Mr. Fella’s work was exceptional and, in a year, he became a partner in Fella & Lamb Studio.
Always looking for opportunity, he was told by a customer that the man’s relative was looking for a trained photographer in Scranton. After careful consideration, Oscar and his wife Elizabeth boarded a Lehigh Valley passenger train to Scranton.
The train stopped in Bethlehem, when Oscar saw the skyline dominated by the massive Bethlehem Steel plant. They made a monumental decision.
Mr. Fella said, “We will make our new home in Bethlehem, the steel city.”
Mr. Fella was fortunate. In a few days, he was hired by Biro Studios as an assistant in its photography studio.
After a few years, they found a vacant building on Buchanan Street, and the Fellas opened their first photography studio.
Mr. Fella’s father, Martin Sr., was born in 1920. He was delivered by a midwife. Martin Sr. joined brothers Bernard, Rudolph and Edward. They were all interested in the business.
Martin graduated from Liberty High School. During his high school days, he worked in the school print shop and, after school, at the local town newspaper. Do our readers remember The Globe-Times?
At home, his father taught Martin the skills and chemistry needed to develop film in the darkroom, a skill that would be passed down to the current owner of the Northampton studio.
In two weeks, we will be developing film in the Fourth Street studio.