Photographer pictures new line of business

Tiberius Images opens unconventional studio in downtown Sparta
The Shipping Container Studio is part of the Sparta Town Square project designed to attract entrepreneurs downtown. Photo by Russ Climie / The Shipping Container Studio

After taking professional photos for 18 years, Russ Climie, owner of Tiberius Images, has finally opened his own photography studio, but it is not your conventional studio.

It is called the Shipping Container Studio, based in Sparta. The 160-square-foot studio opened in September after the container was modified and updated with French doors, windows, custom floors, finished walls, heat, air conditioning, electricity and lights.

The shipping container is a part of the Sparta Town Square project, which aims to “provide affordable, turnkey small business entrepreneurial locations to launch retail businesses in downtown Sparta.”

Climie learned about the opportunity from a photographer who he is partnering with and they quickly jumped at the idea, in part because it fit his way of life, but also because the pandemic had affected his business of going to different places to take photos.

“My wife and I are minimalists,” he said. “We have a one-year-old and we live in a 475-square-foot (home), and the reason why the shipping container appealed to us is because it is a small space. It is very accessible. It is very simple. It is very clean, and it has a very minimal aura to it. As we visited and spoke to the people who were running it, it made a lot of sense to start a studio and see what happens. It is basically a test. It gives us the ability to test and see whether or not our clients want to come and have their photos taken in a studio.”

Since it opened, Climie said they’ve taken photos of families, high school seniors, business portraits and a have done a “cake smash” photography session. Those photography sessions are a ray of hope that his livelihood is slowly returning to normal after the pandemic brought his business to a screeching halt.

Climie said during that time, the one thing he missed most was serving his clients with his camera.

“I had three to four events every week that I was photographing and typically one to two headshots every week, so I was busy,” he said. “We had some big projects that were coming up and unfortunately everything got canceled from March 15 to early July, from an event perspective. No one wanted to have their photo taken when they hadn’t had their hair cut in three or four months, so our headshots were canceled. Everyone was home, no one is at the office, everyone is at home.”

For nearly two decades, he has photographed more than 1,500 events including weddings, but also events for the business community such as the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, The Right Place, Saint Mary’s Foundation and other organizations.

Now that his studio is open and the fall season is here, Climie has a few ideas up his sleeve.

“We have fall-themed portraits and a Halloween event that we are going to do,” he said. “We are going to do a Christmas theme setup because with COVID this year, I am assuming that photos with Santa are not going to happen at the mall. That would be my assumption so we’ll be able to do a few days of photos with Santa, where people can be in the studio one at a time. That is the beauty of it.”

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