Early in his career, photojournalist James Galbraith got a job with the Detroit Free Press. But a strike there upended those plans. He wound up writing for smaller papers, like the Ann Arbor News, the Brighton Argus and the Livingston County News.
But according to his widow Susan, it couldn't have worked out better.
Susan says, "He never quite made it to the Free Press which was a great thing because we never would have done these things."
By "these things" she means photographs of ordinary people and small-town life. In fact, James resented the fame and money that his big city colleagues who photographed sensational subjects received.
Susan says, "Jim always said, it was a direct quote in an interview, he said, 'I'm a photographer who doesn't need a war to make photographs (laughs).'"
Hartland in the Heartland
The book, "Hartland," is about folks in rural Michigan. Hartland is a small town between Detroit and Flint. James shot the photographs and Susan wrote the text and collected the book's oral histories.
All the photographs are black and white. In one picture, a father and son pet their dog on the family farm. In another, a color-guard proudly marches up a dirt road in a Memorial Day parade.
Susan says, "This image here is one of my favorites: the farmhand putting the belt on the old equipment. It was like my childhood growing up in Michigan on a dirt road in a farmhouse."
A Thousand Words
According to Susan, James often battled the management of the papers he worked for. His editors often thought that pictures merely served to enhance the written story. But James disagreed.
Susan says, "He was not a great reader. In fact, he avoided print whenever possible and he felt that images were just as important as words and he fought for space in the newspapers."
Jim Galbraith became a casualty of the downsizing of newspapers. By 1992, he found himself out of work and the couple had to sell their home. Susan said his soul would have been crushed by becoming a wedding photographer or someone who took school portraits.
But he got a lot of satisfaction from selling prints of his photographs in art fairs.
Susan says, "I'd be in the booth in the 120-degree weather and people would come in, they'd go right to, let's say, the gandy dancer image or right to this image of the farmer and his son and the dog and stand in front of that image transfixed."
James also had an affinity for Ireland. Recently, his black and white pictures of the people of rural Ireland were acquired by the National Photographic Archives in Dublin - a rarity for a non-Irish photographer.
James Galbraith's photographs are on display at the Charlevoix Public Library through April.