James David "Big Jim" Salles was born on November 11, 1945, in Beaumont, Texas. Big Jim was raised in Fannett, and attended Hamshire- Fannett High School. While in school, Big Jim was the yearbook photographer for two years, and he graduated with honors in 1963. He then attended Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches on a basketball scholarship. While at SFA, he was in the marching and concert bands. He later transferred to Lamar University and attended until 1966, the year in which he married his lovely wife Sue Humphrey of Groves. Together they have had four children, and now have four grandchildren.
Big Jim has been the pastor of the West End Baptist Church for the past 10 years. He began his ministerial career in 1962 while still in high school, serving either full-time or part-time as pastor or musical director for 44 of the last 46 years. Following in his steps, three of his children and their spouses currently hold ministerial positions in Southern Baptist churches. Big Jim returned to Lamar in 1995 and finished his undergraduate degree, and then in 2000 entered Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree.
Big Jim's passion for photography began in high school, while serving as the yearbook photographer during his freshman and sophomore years. His first camera was an Argus 35. He then moved up to a Minolta, which he liked so much that he still owns six Minolta 35mm cameras. In the 1970s he was introduced to medium-format, acquiring a Bronica and two lenses. Next, he graduated to a Hasselblad, and still has them all today. At one point, he had a complete darkroom set up, which he enjoyed "playing with" until he had to pack it up due to lack of time. He also has a complete studio lighting setup, but no time or room to keep it out. Then in 2003, after he had shot well over 10,000 film negatives, Big Jim made the move to digital. He started with a Canon G3, and then moved up to a Canon Digital Rebel, and now a Rebel XTi. He says that he shoots digital now because of economics. Film became too expensive compared to digital. Though he prefers film, especially medium and large formats, he shoots with his digital cameras. As far as subjects go, he claims not to be good at portraits or staging shots, so he prefers to shoot subjects as they are, just like he sees them. Big Jim also likes black-and-white photography, and can "see" more in them than color photographs.
Concluding my interview, "Big Jim" stated that he would not change a thing about his life even if he could, and that he has been blessed by the Lord and is living life to the fullest. This shows in his photographs. After joining the Beaumont Camera Club, "Big Jim" moved up the competition ranks at lightning speed. Just this past year, he not only won in the year-end competition, but he also won the prestigious L. E. Stagg award. And I must admit "Big Jim" makes a great cup of coffee, and so is the appointed "Club Coffee Brewer". He always has a hot cup of coffee ready for us, which is readily needed on competition nights! Thanks, "Big Jim", for being a model club member, and keep up your good work.