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Don Victor leaves a legacy of friends and photographs

Don Victor has left behind a treasure trove of images documenting everyday life in this place.

Great Barrington — Great Barrington lost its roving community photographer this week when Donald B. Victor left the area to join family in Ohio. He was a popular figure around town for forty years — jaunty, good-natured, kind and ubiquitous — a true everyman’s paparazzo in the Berkshires style.

I first met Don in September 2012 shortly after I had moved with my family to Great Barrington. The place where we initially took up residence on Dresser Avenue had been the home of Lucien Aigner (1901-1999), a well-known 20th-century photographer, whom I immediately began researching as a possible subject for a documentary film.

The photographer, Lucien Aigner
The photographer, Lucien Aigner

Don was the “keeper of the flame” for Aigner here in town and I sought him out for background about his late friend and employer. Don pedaled over to our place with his ever-present camera and proceeded to take pictures as we chatted about the old days with his friend and mentor.

Don recalled that after getting out of the Air Force with a background in aerial photography in 1975, he had moved to town and was looking for work. In about 1977 he learned that a prominent local photographer, Aigner, was preparing a book and exhibition with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and in need of a top-notch assistant. He approached Mr. Aigner for an interview and was granted an “audition,” which entailed printing some photos under his discriminating watchful eye.

“But after examining my work ‘under a microscope’ and discussing its flaws, he told me, ‘You’re not tough enough.’ ” Nevertheless, they struck up a friendship and Don often drove the old man on auto trips. Don also became friendly with Aigner’s other associates in the area and his daughter, Ann-Marie. Aigner’s major exhibit at the International Center of Photography in 1979 helped to cement his standing as a master photojournalist.

Don Victor. Photo: Scott Christianson
Don Victor. Photo: Scott Christianson

When Lucien passed away in 1999, in an interview with the Berkshire Eagle, Don described his friend as “gracious, courteous and spiritual,” and hailed his work as “great, but under-appreciated.”

Although my idea for a documentary didn’t pan out, my friendship with Don and Anne-Marie continues to this day. I will miss seeing Don around town but know that, like his hero, Aigner, he has left behind a treasure trove of images documenting everyday life in this place, and a large group of friends who were always warmed by his energy, good humor, and interest.

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