His passion for photography lives on at Jojo’s Café

His passion for photography lives on at Jojo’s Café

Luke Kurvers took this self portrait in 2008. His photography is on display at Jojo’s Cafe in a posthumous exhibition that runs through December. Kurvers was passionate about photography his entire life and while he often took an artistic approach to landscapes, he wasn’t afraid to photograph people in their environment. (Luke Kurvers photo)

By Richard McGuire

Luke Kurvers, an Osoyoos photographer, planned to show off his work earlier this year in an exhibition at Jojo’s Café.

But Kurvers, 91, died suddenly in early September before his previously cancelled show could be rescheduled.

Now his son Dave Kurvers, staff and volunteers at Jojo’s and members of the Osoyoos Photography Club have launched a posthumous show as a tribute to Kurvers.

That exhibition opened on Nov. 25 with an open mic evening featuring some of the local musicians that Kurvers enjoyed. It runs through December.

“He came in every day,” said Joanne Muirhead, owner of Jojo’s. “He had soup every day. We gave him soup and he gave us conversation in return. He was really interesting. He had so many unique interests. I got a lot of comfort from him. He was just such a nice man.”

Jim Peltier, who organizes the art and music nights for Jojo’s on the last Saturday of each month, said Kurvers was originally scheduled to do the show in June.

“Luke said he was having some computer problems and he was feeling stressed about it,” Peltier recalls being told in April. “So I scheduled another show.”

In the summer, Kurvers told Peltier his computer problems were sorted and they tentatively discussed going ahead with a show.

Kurvers attended the art and music night at Jojo’s on Aug. 26 as he did so often.

Just over a week later, on Sept 5, a health issue that he thought had healed flared up again and Kurvers died at home.

Dave Kurvers didn’t know his father well for many years because his parents separated in 1970 and his mother raised him.

“I remember seeing him as a toddler and then later in life,” he said. “I’m learning about my father as I go through his photographs, which is interesting.”

Luke was born in the Netherlands in 1926 in The Hague. Growing up in Voorburg during the Second World War, he learned to distinguish between the sounds of German V2 rockets taking off and those that were about to fall from the sky.

He was still in his teens when the war ended, but soon afterwards he joined the army.

After some training in Europe, he was sent to Indonesia, where the Dutch were trying to regain their former colony, which declared independence two days after the Japanese surrender.

Some of Luke’s earliest photos are black and white shots from his time in the Dutch military.

Among Luke’s collection of colour slides are later photos he took when he returned to visit Indonesia, a country that obviously made a strong impression on him.

Luke immigrated to Canada in the mid-1950s and settled in Vancouver. But he also worked as an electrician in Fort McMurray and spent several decades in Pemberton before coming to Osoyoos at least 12 years ago, Dave said.

“His passion was always photography,” Dave said of his father. “I think he considered himself an artist.”

Luke also was an outdoorsman and environmentalist and nature often figured in his photography. Dave believes his father’s love of the outdoors began in the Indonesian jungles.

Dave, who works in the film industry in Vancouver as a digital imaging technician, has been scanning a number of his father’s photos. He’s shared these unprocessed scans with members of the Osoyoos Photography Club (OPC) for them to work on.

“Luke always had a smile and he loved talking about photography,” said Greg Reely, OPC president. “He definitely had a passion for photography. I think he’s had the passion for it his whole life.”

Luke has been a member of the OPC for the past four years.

Reely says Luke talked more about photographic subjects than the technical side.

“I think he had more of an artistic eye than a technical eye,” said Reely. “He was definitely more about the creativity part.”

Luke’s subject matter, Reely noted, includes people in their environment, whether at a rodeo or people he encountered in his travels to such places as Bali or New Guinea.

Reely has shared some of Dave’s scans of the photographs with other OPC members and invited them to process the images. The club plans to print and frame some for inclusion in the Jojo’s show.

“There are some amazing shots,” said Reely.

Peltier said this is the first time Jojo’s Café has done a posthumous show of an artist’s work.

“Jojo’s has turned into a community of its own,” said Peltier, noting that many people in Osoyoos come from elsewhere. “Luke seemed to know a lot of people at Jojo’s and certainly everybody on the staff knew him. He was a regular.”

Muirhead says she and Luke shared a mutual love of art.

“He really loved his photographs and so did we,” she said, adding that the posthumous show seemed like the right thing to do. “I just want to have him back in the store, even though it’s not actually him, it is him. It will be nice to be surrounded by him for another month or so.”

Luke Kurvers took this photo of a father and son probably in Bali, Indonesia. It is scanned from a slide. (Luke Kurvers photo)
Luke Kurvers took this undated photo of a family crossing railway tracks at Mount Currie, B.C., near where he lived many years in Pemberton. (Luke Kurvers photo)