Carrying On The Family Tradition
by Michelle Meals
As a toddler, Justin Camp was already accustomed to cameras. That’s because his mom was the go-to photographer in his hometown of Muenster, Texas. Karen was the person you called anytime you needed a professional photographer. And when she wasn’t snapping weddings, photographing special events, or shooting portraits in her studio, she was documenting Justin’s childhood through whatever camera and lens combo was closest—and there was always a camera, a lens, and film within reach.
Photography, cameras, and all the gear that came with them were just a part of life for the Camp Family. In fact, Justin’s Aunt Angie—a very talented artist—used her painting skills for photography. She ran a business based in Lewisville, Texas, hand painting muslin photography backdrops. As a special gift to her nephew, she put her brushes to work on Justin’s bedroom wall, giving the young boy a life-sized Superman to protect him as he slept.
But it wasn’t just the women in Justin’s life who worked in photography. Justin’s stepdad, King, was the founder of KEH Camera Brokers, which he started in 1979 in Atlanta, Georgia. KEH was a pioneer in the used-photography-equipment business, buying and selling gear well before the Internet brought keyword searches into the equation. When King and Karen were married, he moved to Texas and brought his love of all things photography with him. Not long after, they opened a KEH Camera Outlet store in Dallas, providing people all over the DFW Metroplex with quality cameras, lenses, and equipment.
As soon as Justin was nearly as tall as the Superman painted in his room, he officially joined the KEH family. At 15 years old, he already knew more about cameras than most professional photographers. He worked at the shop throughout high school and even college, staying on top of new photography technologies and trends, and always keeping an eye out for great equipment. After graduating college, Justin became an official purchaser for KEH, a job that took him all over the country and even to other parts of the world in search of the best used photography gear. But it was one trip to a camera show in Ohio that would change the course of his life forever.
While working in the Buckeye state purchasing gear at a large camera convention, Justin met a young hardworking local named Ellen. Their mutual love for travel, good food, and great conversation soon turned into a love for one another. Ellen finished her degree in international business, then made the move to Dallas. The two were married, had unbelievable wedding pictures taken, and started their new lives together.
Their first child was born in 2015, and life was great. But they dreamed of working together at a job that would allow them to continue doing something they both loved as well as spend time with their young daughter. With Ellen’s passion for managing business operations and Justin’s expertise of all things photographic, they knew a camera business was the natural choice for their future. So, in 2016 with a young toddler in tow, Ellen and Justin got a small office and started US Camera Pro. They wanted to provide a place for both retailers and commercial photographers to buy and sell gear… a place that was picky about what it sold, known for quality, and with a reputation for personal and professional service
Their combined knowledge of photography equipment and business management paid off. After a year, they had to get a bigger space and hire staff to help them keep up with demand. Two years after that, they moved the shop again. This time to Addison, a suburb of Dallas, with enough space to hold their headquarters and all their employees.
US Camera Pro’s company culture has always been one of hard work and family. Like Justin and Ellen, everyone on their team has a passion for photography and for the science and mechanics that make it possible. And then 2020 happened. The pandemic attempted to bring US Camera Pro to a crashing halt, like it did to many businesses, but the family-owned-and-operated business held on. As the Camp family welcomed a baby boy, the business adapted to serve the needs of its clients while keeping the employees safe. They came together virtually. They worked to distance themselves from clients while still providing all the same services, both buying and selling quality gear and equipment. And they managed to work more closely together despite being in different locations.
The team eventually started meeting in person again, armed with sanitizer, masks, and all the new protocols necessary as they navigated the pandemic world. But there was no denying that they all preferred to be together doing what they love. And now in 2021, Justin, Ellen, and the team at US Camera Pro continue to innovate, streamlining processes and giving their customers the best possible experience when they’re buying and selling photography gear. They’re committed to their customers, their team, and their photography community.
And in his spare time, that toddler who used to be the subject of his mother’s portraits now takes pictures of his own children, documenting their childhood through whatever camera and lens combination is closest. And there’s never a shortage of cameras and lenses nearby.