The hallway ends and you enter the living room. A stern Indian man meets your gaze and with that one expression written across his face, you feel like you know his story. To his left is a beautiful, lively Muslim woman smiling at nobody in particular.
A short glance towards the opposite corner of the room reveals ancient architecture and a valley of hot air balloons; the man beside you sits on the couch looking over each of these photographs with affection.
He says, “Problem is, these are my memories too. Now if you had taken these same photographs I could look at them much more objectively.”
Jim Ford is the creator of these portraits and as usual, finds it quite difficult to pick only two for entry into this year’s West Kootenay Camera Club photo show.
“It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem.”
Ford has been working with cameras and photography almost all his life.
He’s currently the camera club’s president and continues to teach and mentor those in their fledgling years as photographers.
Ford’s love affair with photography began in his mid-teens.
“I started off,” he said, “when I was about 15. I got a developing kit for Christmas. I went and mixed up the chemicals and found a negative that was kind of scratched up and out of focus and I made a little contact print about the same size as the negative. I then put it in the developer and this image appeared. It was just magic.”
At that moment Ford couldn’t have known he would be travelling across the globe taking pictures and capturing memories well into his retirement years, but something had been brought out of him.
“The next day I was sitting outside the camera store in Castlegar waiting for it to open so I could buy some paper and chemicals, and since then I’ve pretty much been hooked on photography.”
While he’s been taking snapshots for many years, much of Ford’s travelling has been done in the past six or seven years.
“My wife passed away very suddenly and one of the things I realized when I was going through that is that I don’t wanna be on my death bed saying ‘I wish I had gone somewhere.’”
Ford decided he would travel the world and bring along his camera kit to document the people and places he saw.
“It all happens so quickly,” Ford said. “By the time I see the individual I wish to photograph, ask them for permission, take the photograph, show them the image and thank them, it usually takes about eight to ten seconds.
“I have to create the composition by myself because I don’t speak their language,” Ford admitted.
Throughout his high school years Ford was the official photographer for the newspaper and yearbook. He moved on to take photographic technology training at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology while working as an industrial photographer for Cominco during the summer.
From there, NAIT hired him on for some work while he stumbled upon anatomy studies, leading to a job at the University Hospital in Saskatoon. There he did just about every field of photography imaginable, ranging from surgeries to doctors’ portraits and aerial views of the hospital.
Ford later departed the hospital and was brought aboard as the audio/visual coordinator at Selkirk College where he worked for 27 years.
“When I retired and started into the digital end, that kind of renewed my love affair with photography.”
Ford said the transition was incredible. He could now do things in Photoshop and other programs that would take forever in a dark room.
He was one a digital photography pioneer within the West Kootenay Camera Club. When he joined over 15 years ago many opposed the new technology, claiming it wasn’t up to par with film.
“At the start, it probably wasn’t. I was using a two mega-pixel camera.”
That’s much lower quality then the simplest point and shoots on the market today. Trying to make anything larger than an 8×10 would prove disastrous for image quality.
Ford plans to continue his journeys and document all he can.
“I’ve been given a gift to sort of see things in a different way than most people. If I can be happy with my photograph, that’s enough for me. The fact I can still get that personal satisfaction now that I did when I made that first print in the darkroom keeps me coming back.”