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As an ophthalmic photographer, Allan Connor has spent most of his life behind the camera capturing images of eye cancers. But the focus was on him recently when he won five awards for his work at Princess Margaret Hospital.
Allan Connor is not the kind of guy who likes being in the spotlight. The plainspoken, unassuming Scotsman turns tomato red as he describes the day he learned that he had won five awards for his ophthalmic photography.
Connor was in San Francisco attending the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual convention, the pre-eminent event of its kind worldwide, and the Ophthalmic Photographers' Society's international photo competition and scientific exhibit. Since the event organizers didn't inform him of his win, Connor skipped the awards dinner on the first night of the convention and visited Alcatraz instead. The next morning, when someone congratulated Connor on his achievements, he was stunned.
"I said, 'What?'" recalls Connor, his voice rising into a squeak. "I was hoping for one, but when he said five, I was like, 'holy mackerel!'"
"I guess they keep the winners a secret—like the Academy Awards," he chuckles.
Born in Glasgow, Connor, 63, obtained his photography training in Scotland. In 1967, he immigrated to London, Ont., and went to work for a commercial photography firm under a nitpicky manager who was "completely unforgiving," he says. While unpleasant, the experience taught him to be meticulous about his technique. Two years later, Connor took a job as a medical photographer at the Toronto Western Hospital, and eventually moved to Princess Margaret Hospital, where he is Manager of PhotoGraphics and Ophthalmic Photography.
A highly technical field, ophthalmic photography is practised by only a handful of people in Canada. Its obscurity often makes it a misunderstood profession. Few people realize, for example, that ophthalmic photographers are health-care professionals. Using highly sophisticated cameras and scanners, they capture images of the internal and external eye, documenting the state of eye cancer over time. Their work is critical in the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.
Connor likens the process to reading a story: "If you had a book of 10 pages and read one page, you'd know something. If you read another page, you'd know something else. But if you read all 10 pages, you would know what the story is all about. That's what the images do: They come together and give the physician the full story."