August 9, 2010

Feature Obituary: James Clark, 87, 'old school' photographer, mentor to many others

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Whether he was recording a high school sporting event, photographing a wedding or doing a portrait of a Maine governor, James E. Clark's artistry with a camera won him widespread respect and recognition during his lifetime.

click image to enlarge

An unidentified legislator joins James E. Clark, left, as Clark is recognized by the Maine Legislature on his 80th birthday in 2003.

Courtesy of Mark Haskell

PASSAGES

Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

He judged national portrait competitions, participated in local and national photography competitions, earned his master of photography degree and was active in the Maine and New England professional photographers associations.

Mr. Clark, a longtime resident of Augusta, died Saturday at a Brunswick nursing home. He was 87.

"He was very talented, very artistic, especially with how he set pictures up," said his daughter, Linda Mallard of Topsham. "He had this eye. He could see something in a flower or a person that no one else could see."

After graduating from Cony High School in Augusta in 1942, Mr. Clark joined the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Mr. Clark's daughter said he had always been interested in photography, which is why he enrolled at the New York School of Photography after the war.

Instead of going into business for himself, Mr. Clark re-enlisted, becoming a photographer in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

"That was my father. He was very patriotic," Mallard said of her father re-entering the military.

In 1952, Mr. Clark and his wife, Marjorie Folsom, opened the James Clark Studio in Augusta -- a successful business venture that the couple ran together for 52 years.

Mr. Clark was chosen to be the official Cony High School yearbook photographer. Mallard said her father photographed countless high school events, from athletic contests to school plays and fundraisers. Between assignments, he also found the time to coach girls' junior varsity basketball at Cony High.

"He loved Cony High School. Anything he could do for Cony, he would do it," his daughter said.

His business continued to grow over the years. He photographed weddings, did family portraits and had an interest in taking pictures of flowers.

He also did portraits of two former Maine governors -- John H. Reed and Edmund S. Muskie -- as well as the Maine Legislature.

"I bet if you asked all the people in Augusta where their wedding photos came from, a majority of them would say 'from the James Clark Studio,'" his daughter said. "Saturday and Sundays during all of my childhood, Dad was at a wedding."

Mark Haskell, a professional photographer from Camden, was just one of many photographers Mr. Clark mentored.

Haskell said his friend, whom he had known since the 1970s, would often take a group of photographers on photography field trips to places such as Monhegan Island.

"He was a mentor to many, many photographers from across the state," Haskell said.

Haskell said Mr. Clark was a founding member of the Maine Professional Photographers Association.

The organization established a scholarship fund in his name several years ago, partly to recognize his accomplishments as well as to help aspiring photographers get started.

Jim Hannigan, a photographer from West Paris, said he didn't know Mr. Clark that well but knew enough to admire his work ethic and professionalism.

He bought some of Mr. Clark's photographic equipment at a silent auction, including a Speed Graphic camera -- a portable "press" camera that was used from the 1930s to the 1950s.

"I really admire a lot of the 'old school' photographers. Jim Clark was someone who was very knowledgeable, very professional and very hard-working," Hannigan said.

Mallard said her father continued to take photographs until about seven years ago. But he never became involved with digital photography.

"Dad never used digital cameras. He came of age before digital. As they say in the business, he was a real photographer," his daughter said.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

 

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