Howard Copeland, owner and operator of Scott Camera in Peekskill, celebrates his business’s 50th anniversary this year. While the art of photography and the precision of film development have long been his passion, he didn’t always know that photography would be his career.
Growing up in North Carolina, Howard found inspiration from his high school physics and photographer teacher. He went on to earn his own bachelor’s degree in physics and moved to New York to pursue teaching at the former Scarborough School in Briarcliff Manor.
Following in his teacher’s footsteps, amid his day-to-day teaching, Howard became the school’s go-to photographer for class and faculty photos and school events. There, Howard was able to blend his two passions into his everyday life—he appreciated the art behind taking the photos and the science behind developing them (in black and white). “For me, photography was always about doing the whole process,” Howard shares.
Howard’s first glimpse of Peekskill came during those two years at the Scarborough School, when one of his students invited him to dine at his family home. A few years later, Howard was reconsidering his career and started taking photography more seriously, offering portrait and wedding services.
He found that business tended to slow down during the time between the holidays and the spring months, so he searched for a way to balance out his business. Howard noticed Scott Camera, originally founded in 1946, was for sale, and he thought that a mixed-use store and studio would even out those business lulls. So, in 1972, he purchased the store.
Previously operated as a camera and supply retailer, Howard transformed the business into a mix of photography classes, camera repair services, and a full range of portrait and aerial photography, including local weddings, sports teams, schools, businesses, and organizations.
Since finding a camera repair shop is rare these days, he often has clients traveling from far and wide, such as Saugerties and Suffern.
Over the past five decades, Howard has become a fixture of the local community—working with NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley, Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce, Peekskill Rotary, Wheelabrator Westchester, and many more. Howard has even photographed George Pataki during his tenure as Peekskill’s Mayor, then State Assemblyman, then State Senator. “We didn’t make it to Albany with him,” Howard says of Pataki’s three terms as New York Governor, “but it’s a wonderful memory.”
Howard’s success has undoubtedly been due to his ability to connect people to his work. He recalls a special memory from his many years in business –a mother with triplets who came into the store to review her wedding photos and her ability to keep them calm and happy the entire time. She later took one of his photography courses, and then recommended Scott Camera to photograph her sister’s wedding—which then turned into two more referrals before the end of the wedding night.
When not managing Scott Camera, which he says operates under the hours of “by chance or by appointment,” Howard spends time at home in Garrison, with his wife, Patricia—who is from Cortlandt Manor and worked in the Lakeland School District for many years, in addition to being the Arts & Education Coordinator for the Paramount Theater in Peekskill. Together, they enjoy reading, canoeing, exploring the natural beauties of the Hudson Valley, and visiting their children and grandchildren in Philadelphia.
What’s the future hold for Howard? Whatever it is, he hopes it includes lugging his heavy camera around on many more adventures.
Stephanie Conte is a resident of Peekskill.