Henry Paine keeps the culture of repair alive in Stockton

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Paine exhibits his photographs in the gallery installment near the entrance of his shop. Stockton, CA

Henry Paine is a small business owner in Stockton, specializing in camera repair.

Henry Paine Camera Repair and Photography is a small shop, accentuated inside with beautiful gallery of crystal clear photographic work on the left and a work station of old, well-kept tools on the right.

Paine is a small and healthy built man with silver-gray hair and a full beard.

His workplace supports his character, with meticulously organized boxes, binders and other equipment in the back. Classical Baroque plays in the background.

Paine’s work flow starts with figuring out what is wrong with the camera. He then figures out what he must do to repair the camera, and how much to charge.

A week later, the one broken camera functions brand new thanks to Paine’s diligent hands.

Paine didn’t start out in this career.

“I was born in Sebastopol and went to high school there but we lived out in the country,” said Paine. “I got a double-A degree at Santa Rosa Jr. College in industrial arts and stuff like that. I had a great uncle who’s worked at PG&E and I had no idea what he did. Turns out he was electric superintendent for the whole area so I went to work for PG&E,” he said.

After 14 years in his engineering career, Paine wanted a change.

“I had gotten interested in photography, but I couldn’t see any way of making a living at it. I mean weddings and portraiture I had no interest in but the art part. There was this article in a photo magazine about camera repair. At that time there was a home study course and so I signed up,” said Paine.

Greg Meadows, a camera shop owner at the time, learned of Paine. He gave him cameras to repair.

Paine worked at home for 14 years repairing cameras and projectors and other stuff like that.

In 1988, he opened his first shop on Yosemite Avenue and Acacia Street. In 1997, Paine took occupancy of his current location and installed his dream darkroom and gallery.

The back of Paine’s shop is lined with computers and printers. A back room served as a darkroom once, before the digital age of photography. There’s an automatic agitator for developing film, a physical un-sharp mask and several ways to edit a film print.

His darkroom is a physical manifestation of Photoshop, or perhaps Photoshop is the digital manifestation of his darkroom.

For every tool or technique, he showed, curiosity grew, bringing more questions to ask.

There is a lot to learn from a person like Paine. He has seen it all and lived it.

Paine is 78 years old and still spends his days repairing cameras and photographing personal projects.

“To sit down and go into a camera. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do, other than photography… the hands just start to itch to get in there and figure it out. Working with hands and brain. That’s what I did with PG&E,” said Paine.

Paine is one of the few repair shops that exist today. In a world where electronics and appliances are now consumable, Paine keeps repair alive and well.

Henry Paine Camera Repair and photography is located at 147 E. Alpine Avenue and is open 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.