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Autobiography: Wally West's History of Photography

My first contact with a Professional Photographer was as a Relief Manager of A.F. Wilbee grocery store on 41st & West Blvd. in Vancouver when I was 16 in 1932. This grocery store was next door to R.J. Hughes Photo Studio. RJ. Hughes, the photographer, was the founding President of Professional Photographers Association of British Columbia (P.P.A.B.C.). Having the occasion to go out the back door of my store, I was in sight of a whole row of photographic frames being exposed to the day light. I later found out that they were P.O.P. (Printing Out Papers) proofs. Mr. Hughes was making his proofs by sunlight. This excited my interest in Photography.

A year or two later I met up with Helmeth Geortz, a photographer for Alf Blight in Edmonton. Helmeth and I boarded at the same rooming house and we formed a real friendship.

While in Edmonton I tried to sell Beaty washing machines and vacuum cleaners with little success. While at this rooming house a group of music sales people arrived and I was invited to join them to go to Vancouver to sell music courses. I left Edmonton

and was off to Vancouver with the group of sales people. I did not know anything about Music, but was given training in selling these courses. Dr. Berisford who was a super salesman guided the crew. He used photographs of his large groups of new students to promote sales.

The next encounter with another professional photographer was meeting Fred Sunday, who specialized in large group photography. Mr. Sunday was photographing several hundred new music students on the stage of the Orpheum Theatre, parents and grand parents were in the audience watching. Mr. Sunday was using an 8 × 20 camera, lighting the group with flash powder.

I was 19 and had made up my mind that I was going to be a photographer and seized the first opportunity to approach Mr. Sunday for a job as his assistant. We photographed a banquet in the Vancouver Hotel, rushed back to his Lab and developed and printed a proof photograph and returned to the hotel to make our sales. What an experience for a novice.

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