Iconic Myrtle Beach photography studio moves out of Arts and Innovation District, takes 70 years of history with it

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 9:13 PM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - Seventy years worth of some of Myrtle Beach’s oldest photographs are temporarily headed to storage.

Photographer Jack Thompson moved his photo studio out of its downtown storefront this week.

With as many images as Jack has captured over the years, he intends to capture a new place to display all of that work, and he’ll get a little help making that happen.

“The first one was of course the pavilion, and the fireworks of the pavilion,” said Thompson, reflecting on the start of his career.

Sixty-nine years ago, back in 1953, a teenage Thompson took his first picture of Myrtle Beach while he was working at the photo booth at the old Pavilion on Ocean Boulevard.

Since then, he’s captured nearly seven decades’ worth of history and memories along the way, with thousands of photos to show for it.

“I have enjoyed a wonderful time in that building showcasing classic images of Myrtle Beach,” said Thompson.

Thompson’s studio has actually moved around a bit.

For the last seven years, it’s been on 9th Avenue North in Nance Plaza.

His time in the plaza has come to an end because according to Thompson, the landowner plans to turn the studio into an artists cafe.

So Thompson, along with some friends and volunteers from Sunshine Ministries, spent the week packing up his collection.

One of Thompson’s friends says with every piece he picks up, he learns a little bit more about what Myrtle Beach used to be like.

“It’s tough to carry this stuff and not stop and look at these pictures,” said Doug Kelly. “Where we’re sitting right now, the flat iron building used to sit on this very property where we are doing this interview.”

Thompson had to find a temporary home in a hurry and is heading to the old Army-Navy store on Broadway Street.

“Friends of mine have said, ‘Well, Jack, you’ve finally made it to Broadway,’” Thompson joked.

He doesn’t plan to stay on Broadway forever, though, as he says the owner of the old Army-Navy store plans to turn it into a new restaurant in the fall.

Everywhere he goes, the landscape seems to change.

“I guess I’ve known Jack my whole life,” said Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune. “Who hasn’t? He is a Myrtle Beach icon.”

Bethune says she’s happy to see the new industry popping up downtown, but she also thinks it’s important to make sure Thompson has a spot too.

It’s a matter of ensuring all that history isn’t lost.

“We’re going to put together a great team of people to find him the right place to be because this is the Arts and Innovation District, and he should be here,” said Bethune.

Thompson says he’s dreamed of making an “artist’s row” along 9th Avenue.

That dream hasn’t died - it may just need to change for a while.

“It is time, you know,” said Thompson. “You cannot deny progress, you just have to be ready to roll with it.”

Thompson is in his 80′s now, but he says he has no plans to retire.

He says there’s still work to do, a lot of friends and customers that need images and venues up and down the Grand Strand that need pictures to display what Myrtle Beach was like in the past.

A GoFundMe was established for anyone interested in helping Thompson with the move.

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