SAIT photo instructor steps into the spotlight himself

George Webber is not only one of Alberta’s top photographers, he is a SAIT instructor and now a short film star.

On Sept. 25, a short film entitled Lost Horizons: The Photography of George Webber premiered at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF).

A second showing on Sept. 30, was attended by Webber.

“I turned 65 earlier this year, so I like the idea of there being a permanent record that shows me working and talking about my work,” Webber said in an interview.

“I am very happy this opportunity came up.”

The film, directed by Laura O’Grady, follows Webber as he makes pictures and tells the story of how he became a photographer.

“Growing up in Drumheller I saw First Nations people, Hutterites, and folks living in small towns, and when I started to take photos in my late 20s I wanted to see how these people and places had changed,” Webber said.

It has been an on-going inspiration for him because Webber finds the changes fascinating.

One example of this is the story of Mr. and Mrs. Chu.

In the short documentary, Webber talks about a gentleman by the name of Mr. Chu.

In 1988, Webber stopped in New Dayton, Alta. where he had the opportunity to photograph the couple.

He learned of their story after they had both passed away.

Many years ago, Mr. Chu had moved to Canada from China with the intent to bring his family here.

Sadly, he and his wife were not reunited until 1986, the couple had not laid eyes on each other for 55 years.

“When I am there I sometimes imagine what it must have been like for him to be living in that tiny little community all by himself for over 50 years,” Webber said.

Webber feels his type of work has the power to open people up to feel empathy and more tenderness toward others.

Not only is he now the star of a short film, but Webber is an award winner, as well.

He has published seven books on photography and has his photos in museums all over the world, including the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.

Professor Photography: George Webber teaches his students about contact sheets at SAIT in the Senator Burns Building in Calgary on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. (Photo by Ashley Sloan /The Press)

Webber’s started at SAIT as a writer for educational media services. He now teaches a basic photography course as a continuing education instructor.

Kevin Udahl, a SAIT photo instructor in the journalism program, has known Webber for many years.

Webber photographed Udahl when he won the Canadian Press photo of the year award right after he graduated.

“The SAIT Link was doing a story on me and George was doing the photography for that publication, so we picked a time to meet in one of the studios and he took my picture for the story,” Udahl said.

Webber put Udahl at ease with his easygoing personality.

“I am not used to being photographed because I am the one who takes the photographs,” Udahl said.

“He made me feel very comfortable and I have known him ever since.”

Udahl said that some of Webber’s projects have influenced how he takes photos.

“His project on Hutterites resonated with me because its such a long-term project and such a long-term commitment that he has put into this that it really taught me the value of taking on personal projects and sticking with them,” Udahl said.

Webber says his subjects appeal to him because of the chance to learn something that may be a value to his own life.

“I like to pick subjects that can sustain many years of going back, and I think that makes the stories and the photographs much deeper and much more real,” Webber said.

About Ashley Sloan 3 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Ashley Sloan worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2017-18 academic year.