The Compassionate Eye

James Bannerman

+15 Window Exhibition
February 1 to March 31, 2012

James Bannerman (1957-2009) was uniquely situated to capture a street-level view of urban Calgary. First introduced to photography as a client at The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre in 2006, he was rarely seen afterwards without the backpack containing his precious camera, laptop and photo files; picture taking was going to be his ‘retirement plan’. The photographs he left behind speak compassionately about the intrinsic value of incorporating creative activity into daily life.


For James A. Bannerman, the streets of Calgary were his place of residence and his place for creating art. Photography came late to James, a long-time client of the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre (DI), James moved west from Ontario in search of work, and another way of life. Without a place to call home, and no money to support himself, he ended up at the DI where he found a community that accepted him as he was and a place to belong. He discovered photography by accident – a gift of a disposable camera in 2006 and the invitation to participate in an art-based program at the DI, opened his eyes to the wonder of the streets he walked every day. From the angle of the sun striking the corner of City Hall to the reflections of light on a giant silver ball, James saw the world as a place to explore, a world whose images helped ease the burden of the label ‘homeless’ by giving him a new label, photographer, and an opportunity to see himself as someone with a gift to share. For three years James photographed Calgary in her many seasons and moods. On December 8, 2009 James succumbed to the stomach cancer that had invaded his body earlier that year. A man of few words, James believed that even if the cancer did steal his life, his photographs would continue to tell his story; the story of a humble man who never gave up hope. Through James’ gift we are inspired to see our City and homelessness through different eyes.

– Louise Gallagher