Lovely golden-hued sunrises and flaming sunsets, wildlife caught momentarily frozen still in a field, and snow-capped villages are quite the contrast to Doug King’s early career as a Batavia police officer and crime scene photographer.
Yes, King, who lives with his wife Sherry in Elba, was that guy who snapped photos of homicides, suicides, burglaries, arsons, and severe auto accidents.
“Anything that could help to solve the crime,” he said, answering a question about how difficult the job was. “The ones that stuck in my mind were the homicides and suicides. It’d take about a month, and I could still see the victim. That goes with the territory."
He didn’t exactly set out on that career trail while studying at college in Maine. But it was when at college that his father, E. Douglas King, of Kentucky, had a heart attack. The junior King quit college to return home, get a job and help out his mom, who was from Batavia.
The Kings — E. Douglas and Lucille — had met during World War II when he became injured and was shipped to Oakfield as a military police soldier for a prisoner of war camp. They ended up living in Batavia.
Doug was the only child in the family and did what he could to help after his dad died. Meanwhile, the city police chief knew him through sports as an umpire for games.
“He knew my dad had passed and asked if I was interested in becoming a police officer,” King said. “He gave me three books to read overnight and said if I was interested, he needed a part-time officer and to let me know the next morning. I ended up with a 21-year career.”
Not only had that connection led him to a successful occupation, but King continued with photography, only moving away from the grim and gruesome scenes of his job onto nature and the outdoors — “Anything that can bring a smile on your face,” he said.
About 100 of his framed photos and 10 painted artworks from locals, including the late Pat Burr, MJ Thompson, and Jeffrey Crofts, will be up for purchase during this weekend’s Mother’s Day Craft Show and Basket Raffle. Doors open at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Elba Fireman’s Recreation Hall in Elba, and the show runs until 3 p.m.
King enjoys hiking through the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge to serve as inspiration for his photos, and finds many picturesque scenes in the great outdoors, he said. Now that he and Sherry are considering downsizing, they are more eager to rid themselves of the overflow of artwork they’ve amassed over the years, he said.
“One thing about downsizing, you can’t take everything you have,” he said. “I do a lot of outdoor photography … a lot of wildlife … sunsets and sunrises. Anything that can be eye-catching. I gotta shoot turtles, tree frogs, turkeys, eagles, ospreys. I mean, foxes, every kind of animal you can think of that’s in this area, but there's a lot of scenic stuff that I've taken too.”
To the chagrin of his wife (he uses a lot of gas on his photo-seeking escapades), King gets up around 5:30 or 6 a.m. every day and spends a few hours driving around taking pictures.
“I’ve got about 100 framed. I know I will never sell that many, I hope to sell three or four, maybe,” he said. “But I thought it'd be nice to display them and let people see, you know, what's around the community in our area here that they most often don't think about or realize. They're here to enjoy.”
There are a few cherished paintings that will remain with the couple, and most everything else will be at this weekend’s event. One such painting was by Pat Burr, and is a feed sack with GLF Quality on it. The moment Doug saw it, he had to buy it: his dad, grandfather and an uncle had worked at GLF Quality, a grain mill and fertilizer plant in Batavia way back in the day.
Burr had confessed at the time that she never thought anyone would buy such a painting, King said, but as artwork goes, it found its home and sentimental value with the right owner.
One of the Elba Betterment Committee organizers, Pauli Miano is happy to have King’s participation and local art as part of this year’s event, she said. She believes that event visitors will find his pieces “quite interesting” as they illustrate various views from throughout the county and include pieces of nostalgia from late and local artists.
This event will also feature items from local artisans and farms. The first 50 mothers will receive a carnation, and refreshments will be available.
This project is made possible with grant funds from the NYS Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the NYS Legislature and administered by GO ART!
Top Photo of Doug King with one of his framed photographs; and a mix of his photos and artwork collections that are to be available for purchase at the craft show. Photos by Howard Owens.