Dr Ken Richards was a UWI graduate who got on the record, internationally, for his work as a surgeon – but also put many aspects of the early UWI (then the University College of the West Indies, UCWI) life on the record via his camera. We’re not talking about a few snapshots. Ken Richards took photos for his pleasure but also worked with the UWI Public Relations office to record many events and locations over a number of years. He gave one album to the UWI Museum. He also taught many how to take and print photographs when it was a more technical art than clicking on a cel phone camera and applying a filter if desired. In this visual capture, he was one of a select group that has helped capture images of the early UWI – some more publicly than others – including perhaps the first UWI photo junkie, Dr Owen DO Minott of the pioneering class at Mona in 1948; and Dr Henry Fraser of Cave Hill campus.
The other side of Ken Richards was the consultant physician who is specially known for work in North America, especially a procedure that enhanced the viability of lung transplants.
Velma Pollard, poet and retired academic, knew Ken Richards well. She shared these words from a remembrance:
“Ken Richards was my friend. I met him in October 1955 when I joined the Camera Club at UCWI and came under his tutelage. He taught me everything I know about the technical aspects of taking photographs and of processing film. He liked to quip “It all started in the Dark Room” and in recent years he would encourage me to return to it and go on these photography treks of long ago and make use of the state-of-the-art dark room he was setting up.
Ken was an outstanding photographer and an excellent surgeon. He brought to surgery the imagination and precision from his photography and from the skills he acquired in other areas like sewing, a field in which he illustrated his prowess from a very early age. I do not think he felt any separation between these talents. They were all a part of the Richards MIND and HAND.
This quotation from “Singer Memories” ( as in Singer Machine) illustrates what I mean:
“Retired Jamaican thorasic and cardiovascular surgeon Dr.Ken Richards whose mother was a seamstress became famous as a young researcher in the lung plantation field by solving a lung transplantation problem using dressmaking techniques he had learned from his mother”
From time to time we wonder how to illustrate the UWI’s fulfilment of its original mandate to contribute to Caribbean development. Here is one example. And as many more of the early talents produced by the UCWI/UWI become silent, including most from the pioneering and subsequent classes, the challenge of capturing, conserving and interpreting becomes imperative.