The Museum at Campbell River has thousands of photographs in its archival collection. A significant percentage were taken by local photographer Godfrey Baldwin. Godfrey and his wife May opened their photographic studio in their Campbellton home in 1948, just as the population and economy of the region was beginning to boom.
Helen Mitchel wrote in her history of Campbell River, “They soon entered the newspaper field, Godfrey with his pictures and May with her writing, and became familiar figures at all the social functions, meetings, accidents, fires and wherever the news was happening.”
The Baldwins worked for the Courier Islander Newspaper, for the Elk Falls Mill expansion project, and for any and all of the community’s photographic needs, including aerial photography. The collection at the museum is extensive and covers most aspects of community life in the period from the late forties to the early sixties.
The Baldwins’ studio was affectionately remembered by long-time Campbellton resident Peter Garat, who as a child delivered newspapers to their house.
“Everything was a mess in their little studio there. [chuckle] They had the whole desk in their little studio there that was six inches deep in photos. She’d sort through…And [they] did our wedding pictures [in 1959] and we went to pick them up and she couldn’t find them, but she did find them eventually. We were afraid to take them back to get them developed so we kept the proofs!” Diana Kretz, a long-time North Campbell River resident says, “I don’t know how they ever got the pictures, when they developed them, back to where they [were supposed to go]…it was quite scrambly…but they did!”
The extensive photographic record ends suddenly due to Godfrey’s premature death in January, 1964. He was on assignment in a helicopter photographing Quadra Island and Menzies Bay when he suffered a massive heart attack. The helicopter made an emergency landing in the parking lot of the Campbell River hospital, but he could not be saved.
May said that “Godfrey died as he would have wanted to, with his camera around his neck.” His obituary in the Courier Islander newspaper noted that he was, “A hard worker, always a gentleman, and a good friend.” May continued to write for the newspaper for many years following.
His extensive photographic body of work serves to document the Campbell River area in its most dramatic period of change, and is an impressive legacy for such an involved member of this community.
The upcoming exhibit at the museum, Godfrey Baldwin’s Campbellton, on display from Jan 12 to Feb 17, focuses on the photographs he took of the neighborhood he called home, which at the time was a separate community from Campbell River. The people featured in the photographs are in many cases unidentified, so please stop by to see if you recognize anyone!
More of Godfrey’s photographs can be found at campbellriver.crmuseum.ca