BUFFALO — The Buffalo History Museum has a bit of a mystery on its hands, and they’d like Western New Yorkers to help solve it.
Actually, there are about 50 mysteries, says former wedding photographer Ettore Porreca, of Ettore-Winter Photography Studio.
As part of the museum’s one-day “Something Old, Something New” wedding exhibit and fundraiser March 3, approximately 50 pre-bridal portraits taken by Porreca will be on display. Porreca, who’s in his 90s, said he took the photographs between the 1950s and 1970s and wants to give them to the subjects because he has no use for them any longer.
There’s only one problem: There are no names on the portraits.
“That is going to be a feat and a half for us because we don’t know who these people are,” said Constance Caldwell, director of communications & community management at the museum.
Porreca said he offered to allow the museum to display the photos for the upcoming wedding-themed exhibit, but expressed his interest in finding the rightful owners while they are at it.
“There’s no reason for me to keep them so I thought they would do some good for the families, at least,” he said.
The 16-by-20-inch photographs came about through a symbiotic relationship the studio had with a well-known and exclusive dress shop, Tegler’s, located on Delaware Avenue.
He had shot one young bride’s pre-bridal portrait a few weeks before her wedding for an announcement in the Courier Express. She took her portrait to show the owner of the dress shop, Phyllis Tegler, who asked to have a copy to hang in the shop.
“Phyllis (later) called and said ‘Anytime you get one of the girls that purchased her gown from us, if you will make a print for us to put up on our wall, we’ll be glad to do that.’ “ Porreca recalled. “So we did.”
The relationship wasn’t exclusive between Ettore-Winter and Teglers, Porreca said, but in the end he printed and framed some 60-odd portraits to hang on the walls of the shop. The practice proved to be a boon for business on both sides.
“The more we got, the more we did and the more we did, the more we got,” the photographer said as his studio became more and more known for its bridal portraits.
“We did more weddings than just about anybody in this area and we got to be very, very successful,” Porreca said. “It was largely a result of our pictures at Tegler’s and (their publication) in the paper with our byline underneath them.”
“The perception was that (Ettore-Winter) was the place to have (portraits) done,” from the 50s to the 70s, Caldwell said.
The dress shop closed decades ago, and Tegler gave the portraits back to Porreca, who had kept them in storage until now.
The photographs will be on display one day for the “Something Old, Something New” exhibit at the museum. Porreca and the museum are appealing to anyone who might have bought a wedding dress from Tegler’s and had their portraits done at Ettore-Winter between the 1950s and 1970s to come check them out.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with the exhibit, the museum is holding a wedding dress contest in an effort to add a more contemporary bridal gown to their collection. Anyone who is willing to part with a wedding dress from the past 50 years may enter.
Contestants must submit a photo of the dress — preferably worn by the original owner — and a 150- to 350-word story about the dress by Feb. 11. The winning dress will be added to the Buffalo History Museum’s permanent collection, and the winning contestant will receive a certificate of accession.
Those who wish to enter may do so by mailing their submissions to One Museum Court, Buffalo, NY, 14216, or by emailing email@example.com.
IF YOU GO • WHAT: "Something Old, Something New" one-day wedding exhibit and fundraiser • WHEN: 4 p.m. March 3 • WHERE: Buffalo History Museum, One Museum Court, Buffalo • COST: Members $20; non-members $25 • MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.buffalohistory.org.
Contact features editor Danielle Haynes at 693-1000, ext. 4116.