Karl Heinz Segall, co-founder with his father of Segall-Majestic Inc., the North Charles Street photo studio where generations of Baltimore-area high school students as well as brides went to be photographed, died in his sleep Sept. 7 at his home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The former longtime Pikesville resident was 97.
Mr. Segall, whose father was a photographer and film producer, was born and educated in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, and raised in Hamburg and Berlin.
"He learned photography from his father," said a son, Frank Segall of Baltimore.
Fleeing the rise of Nazism in Germany in the late 1930s, Mr. Segall immigrated to Cleveland, where he worked briefly as a factory custodian.
When his parents' ship was diverted from New York City to Baltimore, Mr. Segall left Cleveland to meet them.
"It was Jan. 5, 1938, when his parents, Louis and Henriette Segall, who arrived nearly penniless, decided to stay in Baltimore and open a photo studio," said another son, John L. Segall of Baltimore.
Mr. Segall and his parents opened their first studio in 1939 in the 300 block of N. Charles St., and moved to 909 N. Charles St., after World War II.
Segall-Majestic left Charles Street in 1980 and relocated to Catonsville.
"The business had such a humble beginning. Because money was so short in those early days, when a client came, my grandmother would take the deposit and then carefully slip it into Louis' pocket. While they changed clothes, my grandfather would go down the alley to buy film for his camera," said John Segall, who later went to work for his father and became president of Segall-Majestic in 1978.
In 1940, Karl Segall, who was known as Heinz, met Sidney Schultz, a high school yearbook representative, who convinced him that photographing high school students for yearbooks could be a lucrative business.
Because he was a German alien, during the early days of World War II the authorities confiscated Mr. Segall's equipment.
Rather than not keep an appointment to photograph the students at Glen Burnie High School, Mr. Segall rode a Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad train to Glen Burnie to explain his problem in person to the school's principal.
"The principal told him that he had a good reputation and to wait a few minutes while he went inside and made a phone call," John Segall said.
The principal called Roman Catholic Archbishop Michael Joseph Curley, who used his influence to have Mr. Segall's equipment returned to him within 24 hours.
"My father was very fortunate. Here was this Jewish immigrant who was helped tremendously by the archbishop," John Segall said.
In addition to getting his camera back, Mr. Segall got the contract to photograph parochial school students in the archdiocese and supply all photography to The Catholic Review.
"That was the basis on which the business was built," John Segall said.
Mr. Segall put in long hours, working from 9 a.m. until 9:30 p.m., and was open six days a week.
Eventually, his staff grew to 60.
For years, students came to the North Charles Street studio before Mr. Segall began visiting schools to take the portraits.
Students nicknamed Mr. Segall "Mr. Poof," a knockoff name for "Mr. Proof," for the photo proofs they were given from which they would select their yearbook portrait, John Segall said.
He added that his father was able to keep order among waiting students because he had a "million-dollar personality and an ability to make everyone feel special."
In addition to parochial schools, the business grew to include schools in Baltimore City, and Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Howard counties, and later expanded to Washington and Pennsylvania.
"When we sold the business in 1995 to Lifetouch Inc., we had more than 300 high schools under contract," John Segall said.
Mr. Segall was a lifetime member and former president of the Professional School Photographers Association. He was a longtime member and former president of Temple Emmanuel Congregation.
He was a classical music and opera fan and enjoyed reading. He also liked to travel and take photographs of his journeys.
"Photography was not a hobby, though. It was his vocation, not avocation," said Frank Segall.
His wife of 49 years, the former Eleanor Muhlfelder, died in 1989.
Services were held Sept. 10.
Also surviving are his wife of 14 years, the former Cyril Kirson; another son, Jeffrey Segall of Baltimore; a daughter, Marilyn Goldman of Potomac; two stepsons, Jay Block of Baltimore and Sydney Block of Belfast, Maine; a stepdaughter, Barbara Novicki of San Antonio; 11 grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; three step-grandchildren; and five step-great-grandchildren.