The incomparable Chris F. Payne
By Manfried Helmuth Starhemberg
If there would be an award for having had more fun in a lifetime, than should be legally allowed, Glen Sutton's Chris Payne would be a serious contestant. Born in Newbury in Britain's Berkshires, 77 years ago, he was consripted into the British army's Ordinance Suvey Office where after two years he was made Sergeant. "I did all the printing at the Joint Services Staff Office", he chuckles. "After we passed all the secret documents to the staff officers to read, it became my job to bring the documents to a pulp mill under armed escort for destruction, It felt like I was destroying nuclear bomb secrets at times:.
Chris stayed in the reserves for three years after this service and got a job with the "Ordinance Supply Offiice" in Buckinghamshire and after this stint went out on his own as free lance photographer, mainstay and chief interest for the rest of his life. But he also built his own radio transmitter for model aircraft, another interest he still enjoys.
Among the fun jobs he had was one as a beach photographer for the major seaside resorts in Devonshire. He worked out of an old gun shelter which was his darkroom. He also acted as in-house photographer for a large furniture company and had a parallel job as night manager of a local cinema. The list of his jobs and assignments is endless.
In 1957 he married and one week later he and his wife moved to Montreal. "I wanted a change and I tossed a coin - Australia or Canada ? Canada won and I am still here"
The marriage lasted only a little bit over a year but Chris was by then well established as printer, dot-etcher and lithographer, ensconed in the Union with a card which he kept for many years. "I went back to photography but when there were not enough jobs, I could always work in one of the many printing plants in Montreal" he explains. Eventually his work, mainly as an architectural photographer took off big time and he operated out of large facilities on Dorchester street.
"I had almost all the good architects and architectural magazines as clients, I had a big place, an assistant and a Porsche". In 1967 he bought a beautiful former Anglican residence in Glen Sutton and began to spend his spare time there."Then I decided to go to the Bahamas for a couple of years, where I started photographing conventions, tourist events and hotel photography. It was a great time but very little money". After that it was a spell in New Orleans and then back to Montreal. There were always jobs for the talented man and he began to indulge in another enterprise in which he was busy until just a few months ago: He became a bookseller.
I met Chris almost two decades ago and broused in his small store in Glen Sutton where we discovered that we had a friend in commen, the late Montreal writer Don Bell. Don was also in the book business as was I at my Sherbrooke street store in Montreal. Bell's store was known by his nickname "The Bookman", thus the younger man, Chris Payne would be called "Bookboy" by Bell which made me the "Bookkid" as the youngest of us three. Chris took over the basement section of a Sutton bookstore to sell his used and rare books, after Don Bell passed away I owned his store for two years but there was no money to be made in used books and I gave it up. Chris carried on and his interest in buying rare or simply interesting books has not changed to this day.
Now he is busy in the house he shares with long time partner Michelle Lalonde, a noted mosaic artist. Chris does construction, builds underpinnings for the mosaics and has the most beautifully landscaped garden. In the time I have known him he has never been seriously ill, he is just too busy enjoying life to let silly things like careful ageing interfere with his future plans...