When Peter Northcott moved to Barrie in 1971, the two major photography forces in town were Red Favero and Joe Waterer at Camera Craft. Charlie Smith had a studio on Owen St, too.
Peter was selling Gaf photography equipment, in a sales territory that ran from Barrie to Wawa. He also had a young wife who found a job as a nurse at Royal Victoria (on Ross St). At that time, Peter wouldn’t have predicted that he becamr photography anchor in Barrie. But he has.
He talked the Examiner’s Gerry McPherson into hiring him as a photographer in 1972, then went out on his own with Pro Colour in 1977, opening up right beside the Waterer’s indescribable picture mecca at 28 Dunlop St W. Five years later he moved to 27 Dunlop E, changed his name to Amora, and in association with a Winnipeg Photo Studio, he became the country’s largest independent photographer of school pictures, ultimately taking care of over 60 schools. That was in addition to his thriving portrait business and his favourite, weddings.
You were a lucky parent in the 80’s if your kids’s school had Amora doing its pictures. Peter Northcott’s uncanny ability to capture a face was a treasured thing in inexpensive school packages. Lucky us!
With the move to Barrie’s downtown main block, Peter’s portrait business became his signature… you could pick out a Northcott portrait from all the others. The boardroom at Georgian College is full of Northcott portraits of presidents. The Shriners Hall bears his work. The Masonic Lodge. And individuals, like famed artist Conyers Barker whose portrait is unforgettably captured by Peter.
Ten years after he opened Amora, Peter and his wife, Anne, sighted Esme Whittaker’s empty old house on Toronto St, at the corner of Toronto and Park. With 11 foot ceilings, an overgrown back garden, proximity to Queen’s Park, the 120 year old house had saddened and emptied and the Northcotts decided to make it home and business simultaneously, pouring their creativity into ponds and gardens (for wedding pictures), personal accommodations upstairs, studio on the main level.
This gracious location has allowed Anne to work full time in the business and Peter to let go of the school work, turning it over to their son, Shawn. Portraits and weddings have continued their magic with Peter’s eye behind the lens. Peter, and Amora, have indeed become the photography anchor of Barrie’s Central Business District.
Like no other, the photography business has felt the digital impact. No negatives. No developing. No wedding albums as people move to digital story books. And so, Peter and Anne Northcott are making another move. The Toronto St home is up for sale; the Northcott’s are ‘retiring’ to a small house in Minesing, and more importantly to their cottage in Parry Sound. The grandchildren are calling! Son Paul, who runs a research lab for neurooncology at Sick Kids Hospital doing pediatric brain tumour research, is adding to the grandchildren in September.
“Now I’ll continue to shoot portraits and the odd wedding, but now I ‘ship’ my pictures online, selling them online and people make their own albums. It’s a changed world and the nice thing is we can recognize these things before it’s too late,” says Peter, looking at a slower pace with a gleam in his eye.
He’s keeping a few of his treasured portraits, to hang in their new home. The most treasured? The one he did of Joe Waterer, his fur fedora pulled down over his face. Anchor to anchor.