Our Story

Copyright The Noel Norton Collection | All rights reserved | 2019

The History of the Noel Norton Collection Limited as written by Mary Norton
Spouse of Noel P. Norton

Our first daughter, Helen, was about nine months, chubby (not fat) good disposition and friendly with everyone.

While browsing through the newspaper one day I noticed an advertisement for “Cow & Gate”, a milk that was fed to babies up to 2 years, to compete in a programme called “Baby of the Year” with several interesting prizes being offered, money, trophies, baby items etc.

Noel, was at this time a passionate amateur photographer and having won three (3) photo competitions sponsored by the Trinidad Guardian, he “went to town” with his precious daughter.

The photographs were all very good, and I had some difficulty selecting one, so “boldly” I went down to the advertising office to request that they select one.  I was absolutely bowled over by the enthusiastic response, which I received from the members of staff, and “stumped” when the CEO suggested we come on board with them as the official photographer for the other contestants.  Of course I accepted the offer, negotiated rates and then returned home thrilled to the core to give my better half the “good news”.

Shock and disappointment! “I can’t do this I have never photographed anyone but Helen, I may make a mess of this and then there will be general embarrassment”. I should mention here that Noel’s humility about his photographic efforts is one of his strong characteristics.  He has always dubbed me as the “pusher”, and I was determined to get my way on this, so immediately finalized negotiations with the firm of L J Williams – the corporate company for the product.
Most of the babies (contestants) were really lovely and the photos were great. All the mothers wanted copies for themselves for grand parents, god mothers etc so the sales rolled in.

Prior to marriage I was employed as a teacher at the Holy Name Convent. I was abut 17 years at that time and also very passionate about my career.  I was involved in every aspect of the school’s activities from sports, drama classes, carol singing to graduation.  I established a rapport not only with the pupils, but also with the parents who on many occasions would request that I “speak” to their daughters, as they would listen to me more easily.
This relationship spanned a period of about six (6) years and the French Nuns who ran the school, were very supportive of my efforts at all times and encouraged me in all my ventures.

I should mention here that after six years Noel, who had come on the scene, decided I was becoming a “domineering” person and encouraged me to spread my wings.  I was reluctant and after several tears and change of heart I agreed.  Opportunity knocked at my door when I was invited to join the team of the Tourist Board as a junior receptionist, but with the possibility of attaining a senior position if my enthusiasm and hard work remained intact.  (I also got married during this time)  This job was an “eye opener” as I was exposed to all forms of cultural and heritage experiences, dealing with passengers, fun cruise boats and travellers from abroad – organizing tours and general “selling Trinidad & Tobago”.

A  closeness had developed between the senior pupils and myself so that even after they left Holy Name Convent we were in close contact.  This would prove to be advantageous to our “growing business” as in one office there were six ex-pupils – all engaged and planning marriage – the first one to take the step approached us with the request that she would like us to photograph this momentous occasion and we did, but with a difference. We did a “story” from dressing to leaving the bride’s home – interesting and emotional moments were captured teary-eyed Moms, Granddads filled with pride, and even Nannies who had been with the family for years.

These photographs were put up in an album referred to as the Wedding Story – the names of the couple, and the date of the wedding were inscribed in gold on the outside cover.  This project was indeed an innovative one as we were the first photographic firm to launch the idea.  We also photographed the weddings of the other five Holy Name girls from that office and later we discovered that these brides became top marketing representatives for our business.

Babies Wedding Family Groups was the natural progression,  an excellent and stable beginning for a business just starting.  Regrettably, though our home was turned into a studio, drying room – darkroom – and loading bay.

At nights my tiny kitchen had to be cleared of all pots and pans. The top of the stove was covered with a block of wood and this was the enlarging table. The counter tops provided the space for the chemicals, and trays with hypo and processing agents. Bottles (cyder bottles) provided the storage for the extra chemicals.  These were carefully labelled and stored in our fridge, but family and visitors to our home were warned about the “danger” before they opened any.

Most nights we worked until midnight and everything had to be washed carefully and put away for normal living the next day.

The developing tanks were loaded in the wardrobe where our clothes hung, while I stood outside with a blanket to conceal any light which, might have seeped through.

This was our formula for several months, until we had accumulated sufficient funds to purchase proper darkroom equipment.  Because of temperature control for processing colour fill or Ektachrome, as it was called, we resorted to purchasing blocks of ice about 100lbs daily, placing them in a large sink outside and cooling the chemicals. It was primitive, but it worked!

By now our work load was becoming intense and we needed HELP. We were burning the candle at both ends as both of us were still employed full time.

However, luck was on our side when a friend of ours, KP, also an enthusiastic amateur photographer resigned his job and offered his services to us.

Kelvin was a hardworking person full of great ideas; a mover and shaker and he soon convinced us that we needed larger premises.

With his persuasive powers, he was able to secure an empty house at #33 Fitt Street, Woodbrook, and we moved in lock-stock-and-barrel. 

This was our first studio! We were now in to Advertising photographs and that was a real pressure, with demanding and very short deadlines, but challenging and exciting photography, with lots of time and space for creativity. 

Trinidad Photographers Ltd. as we were now known had a staff of 5 persons and everyone must feel welcomed, hence the name.

A 19 year-old apprentice photographer was sent to us by another professional photographer, who was migrating, but because of Michael Loregnard’s enthusiasm and love for photography he wanted to ensure that he was well placed before he left Trinidad.

Michael was a dedicated and talented person who worked with us for a period of 25 years; and although we placed him in another photographic establishment we saw him almost daily. He was always there for us – assisting in anyway help was needed and to this day, 2008 he is still there for us, as he says all the knowledge he has gained and the skills he has acquired was through the mentorship of Noel Norton.

Wilfred Ferdinand was another junior photographer who joined our ranks in the 1962 / 1963 period.  He too had worked at a lab which, specialized in passports and so all he learnt about the photographic business was through Norton’s. He too worked with us for a period of about 25 years, after which he migrated to Venezuela with his wife and kids.  There he opened his own studio, always keeping in touch with us for advice or for the purchase of new equipment. As was natural, he was given a “test” assignment to photograph section of the oil industry. He did very well, and became the official photographer for several US companies based in South America.

In one of these Industrial magazines, which featured his photographic work, he was interviewed and gave great praise to Noel for what he had been taught with special emphasis on discipline and professionalism.

Our lives and our world changed radically when the well known British photographer – the Queen’s photographer and high fashion photographer – Normal Parkinson, visited our studio to get information on our services.

A team of models, hair dressers, fashion designers and editors were due to arrive in Tobago for a high profile “shoot” on behalf of the international Vogue magazine. It was important to have the processing of the film done locally, and as yet he had found no one to whom he could contract this important assignment. 

Having arrived in Trinidad, he made discreet enquiries from several persons all of whom mentioned Noel’s name (our unofficial marketing representatives) and so he arrived at our studio, “came saw and was conquered”. They clicked immediately and discussions with Noel proved that this was the person he needed. Furthermore, he needed an assistant. Would he be free to work with him? Yes of course! What a great break. His first assignment was very successful and in fact, the partnership lasted some ten (10) years, during which time he visited exciting places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Tahiti, Peru, Ecuador, etc and then back to Tobago (all expenses paid, fantastic experiences gained and an eye opener for his photographic efforts).

The American Women’s Association sponsored the first ever exhibition of his travels and the publicity he gained from this was overwhelming; new customers, more interesting assignments.

#33 Fitt Street is to be sold. The owners are migrating and we must find new premises. K.P. is also resigning to move to “the Land Down Under”, Australia.

Our family doctor had recently purchased property at #67 Pembroke Street adjoining his offices as he had plans for a future business on behalf of his wife Deltex Art Shop, but we could have the space if we needed it.  A design was prepared and progress was made for the up-grading of the premises by way of an attractive front, with two display windows and a big revolving sign to advertise our new premises.

In 1985 Pope John Paul II visited Trinidad. Norton Studio was the official photographer, and this was one of the most heart-warming events in our lifetime.  We were at Piarco to meet, greet and photograph His Holiness, and while he took the long route to Port of Spain, the journalists’ buses took a short cut to the National Stadium to reach ahead of him.  Thousands of persons, Catholics as well as non-Catholics, lined up for hours to welcome him, and they were not disappointed. The Mass was inspiring and we all left for home feeling good and holy.
Noel was introduced to His Holiness Pope John Paul II by Archbishop Anthony Pantin (now deceased) and photos of this greeting are prominently displayed at our home.  

In 1989 Noel was awarded a Gold Medal for his submission of a photograph “Boiling Christmas Ham’ organized by I.I.C.A with the theme Women in Agriculture.  Noel was invited to go to Costa Rica to receive his prize, and while there, we learned that he was the first English-speaking recipient to receive a prize.  

In 1991 he was honoured by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago for his contribution to the art and culture of the nation, and for this he received The Chaconia Medal Gold (the 2nd highest honour of the land).

Two books on the History of Trinidad and Tobago were published, by Geoffrey Maclean. Noel’s work really came into its own as customers purchasing the books remarked on the places which were familiar to them and the festivals and customs which they had always taken for granted, were so prominently and artistically featured.

A Carnival story – 20 years of Trinidad and Tobago Carnival was another achievement, as it was the first of its kind to document our National Festival.  It was a “best seller” for the short time that it was on the shelves, but sadly, the printers are no longer in business and the plates have been damaged. A new one was planned, but to-date this has not been possible.

In 2007 we organized an Exhibition for University of Trinidad and Tobago (U.T.T.), consisting of 150 pieces of history, culture, people, industry and more, The exhibition was very well received, particularly from the personnel of the Diplomatic and Ambassadorial centres. 

Meanwhile, we continue with our archiving, which will take sometime yet to complete. With this new toy, Nikon 300, Noel hopes to add some new material to his portfolio. He hopes to be remembered in later years for the quality of his work, and the memories they evoked in all of us. As we turn our calendars back to the past, we look toward the future with new hope for the present generation to continue what we started. 

Our lives were truly enriched and blessed by this experience, and we have absolutely no regrets in having followed this path!

Special Honours and Recognition of Noel Norton's Work

Noel Norton was invited by Mr. Norman Parkinson, the renowned. international fashion photographer who had a home in Tobago, to accompany him to the Far East, Hong Kong, Singapore and Tahiti.

Norman Parkinson worked for Vogue, Peck of New York and Life Magazine. The alliance between the two continued for over 10 years and Noel Norton Accompanied him to Peru and Cape Canaveral and on many other assignments.

As a result, of the Cape Canaveral trip, he was recognized officially by the Trinidad Guardian and also the American Women's Association, who hosted an exhibition of his trip. This was sponsored by The First National City Bank and opened by Sir Henry Pierre, renowned surgeon.

In 1972, Noel Norton was awarded the silver medal at the Commonwealth Arts Festival Competition held in Edmonton, Canada featuring photographs from all Commonwealth Countries. One of the judges included the world famous photographer - KARSCH.

In 1989, Noel was awarded the gold medal for 'WOMEN IN AGRICULTURE'.  A competition sponsored by the 'INTER AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR COOPERATION ON AGRICULTURE (IICA). He was recognized officially at a ceremony in Costa Rica.

In 1991, he was awarded the Chaconia Gold Medal (Trinidad & Tobago's second highest award for his long-term contribution to the preservation of the culture and history of Trinidad & Tobago.

CITIBANK - Portrait Photographer of the year
CITIBANK - Wedding Photographer of the year

Photographic Industries Trophy for Overall Winner of The Year.

Special Staff Award given by employee of Norton Studios Ltd - Gloria Dharoo on the occasion of his 80th Birthday.

Green Leaf Award presented by The Environmental Management Association in recognition of his contribution to environmental conservation and protection.

Awarded as Myerson Pioneer to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Company's business in Trinidad & Tobago, having been among the first applicants to receive PIONEER status.

Awarded and received a monetary gift from the Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre for valued contribution in promotion of Trinidad and Tobago through the art of photography. The monetary prize was handed over to Fr. Jason for the betterment of the Gonzalez community.

Honored by The University of Trinidad and Tobago with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.

Veteran Award presented by the Association of Media Photographers of Trinidad and Tobago for 50 years and over meritorious service as a photographer. 

Noel Norton and Christine Norton, his daughter with memoirs by Mary Norton published the book “Kalyana” focusing on the beauty of Indian culture in Trinidad and Tobago.

Mary and Noel Norton established The Noel Norton Collection Limited for the management of Noel’s 50-year photographic collection.  The Company is managed by his children.

End of the Noel Norton Era

Mary Norton died peacefully at her home on 25 August 2011.

Noel Norton died just a handful of months after his beloved wife at 9.35 pm on January 12 at West Shore Medical, Carenage, Trinidad. He was 85.

CNC3 Television produced a survey of the 50 most influential people in Trinidad and Tobago in which Noel Norton was included as part of the the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago’s 50th Anniversary celebration. 

Video clip here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqYNth66U4o

Noel Norton is awarded a Certificate of Recognition for his contributions to the Indian Caribbean Museum in Waterloo, Trinidad