SIPSEY –George Alford of Sipsey could write a book about how to deal with a chronic illness – especially if the book included photos.
After graduating from Dora High School in 1981, he attended Walker College and Bevill State Community College for a while until he went to work with Highway Services.
“I loved that job. I’d wake up in a different city almost every morning,” he said. You come into town, let the rig down, blow paint, and then you take off for the next city, according to Alford. “Every city is indicative of the people that settled there."
Later, in 1990, he decided to head back to school where earned a degree in computer science from UAB. Afterward, he landed a job at New Horizon Computer Learning Center, teaching people the basics of personal computing.
His stress level began inching up when he went to work as a software developer for AmSouth Bank. This was before the year 2000. During the late 1990s, the mention of Y2K caused the blood pressure of software developers to spike.
When computing was young, software developers wrote code using a two-digit field for the year. This was to save space in computers with limited memory. But as the year 2000 approached, developers realized that using 00 for the year could mean 1900 or 2000. That was a problem. Alford and other software developers around the globe raced the clock to rewrite software code for millions of computers.
Getting computers ready for Y2K was stressful because no one knew the impact on software when the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, according to Alford.
During one of the upgrades at AmSouth, Alford fell ill with Crohn’s disease, which is chronic inflammation of the bowels. He was hospitalized. His immune system went south, and he later developed rheumatoid arthritis. He struggled to cope with his illness and decided to retire.
Alford turned to photography to help him through those times.
“I’ve always been into photography, but like most everybody else, I was simply pointing and clicking,” Alford remembered.
His wife Kennetha bought him his first digital camera. He began taking classes and realized he knew nothing about photography.
“It’s been a blast,” he said. “Especially if you enjoy people and art.” Photography teaches you to look at things in a different way, according to Alford. “You see things that other people don’t see."
During a family visit, one of his cousins was shooting photographs of models in Birmingham nightclubs. He realized that his cousin didn’t know how to use his camera to adjust for different lighting conditions. Right then he realized that he needed to get out and shoot more pictures, and he did.
Sometimes his photography gives him a chance to minister to people. He served as a youth minister at Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church. Too many people paint the picture that you have to be beyond reproach in your life, but that’s not even close to what it’s about, according to Alford.
“When you look at all the people that Jesus had around him they were a bunch of troublemakers,” he said.
When he’s ministering to people, he tells them that nothing they’ve ever done comes close to what those people around Jesus did.
He started shooting local park and recreation action pictures of kids. Alford follows his grandson who plays park and recreation.
“If he’s at the field, I’m at the field,” he said. “Plus, I love kids. I spoil everybody’s kids."
Children are going to get on your nerves, and they are going to do a few things, but you’ve got to have patience, be unassuming, and you got to be trusting, according to Alford
In addition to serving as the team photographer, he also helps out with coaching duties with the park and recreation teams.
“I wanted to be a strategist for the team, but I wound up being pawpaw for the team,” Alford said. “It’s a very important role.” Being pawpaw for the kids became his ministry.
Later, Alford began taking infusions for the RA and as a result, he had constant headaches. “When you have chronic illnesses, it’s always in your mind even if you're not experiencing symptoms,” Alford said. When he started working with the children, his headache went away.
Alford had three daughters; Kiera, Kiaundra, and Tkeyah; two grandchildren; Karson and a newborn named Onyx who is 3 weeks old. He also has Jaffton, a nephew he raised.
You can check out some of Alford’s work on his Facebook page, Alford’s Photography.