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BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT:Picturing Balboa

Jim Fournier’s talent in photography wasn’t learned or studied: it was realized.

Despite having worked as a salesman 40 years ago, selling equipment to camera stores, Fournier didn’t know he was good at taking pictures until he started.

Fournier, owner of the Balboa Gallery on Balboa Boulevard, bought a digital camera four years ago so he could post pictures to his website, www.TalesofBalboa.com.

The site’s visitors soon wanted to buy the prints from Fournier, who has lived on the peninsula for 28 years — “almost a local,” he says.

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Fournier convinced a local market to let him sell his prints there, but after the demand increased, he opened up shop in the Balboa Fun Zone in a small, eventually cramped space full of his images.

As his photos became more popular, he continued to buy bigger printers.

After two years, Fournier moved his shop to the main drag and now prints photos and mattes them as big as 20-by-24 inches. He also carries frames at the store.

Fournier’s shop features photos of sunsets over Newport Beach, fog rolling into the bay, and high, tumbling surf in Corona del Mar.

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All but a couple of the images he sells are his own, but don’t ask him what his favorite one is.

“The last one I took,” he said with a smile. “Then the next one is my favorite.”

His favorite photo in the store on Friday was one he took last week of the monstrous surf that roared into Newport.

“A picture has to say something; otherwise, it’s nothing,” he said. “I just have to see if it feels good, and that’s the only way I can describe it.”

He got some of his best shots while he was a night clerk at the Portofino Hotel, which is now called the Newport Beach Hotel.

“I’d get off at 7 a.m. and ride my bike on the boardwalk and that’s where some of the best sunrise shots come from,” he said. “Then I opened my little store, quit the hotel — and I’ve been starving to death ever since.”

Although he said he isn’t losing money, he’s not in the business for the riches.

Many people who come to his store found him through his website, which enticed some to make the trip to Newport Beach.

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Fournier welcomes everyone who comes in his store with a big hello and asks where they “hail from.”

Sydney, Australia, resident Derek Peterson, didn’t know about Newport until he stumbled upon Fournier’s website last year, and after he did he visited Fournier’s gallery to tell him he liked the site and was glad he found it.

On Friday, he paid a visit to Fournier’s gallery to say hello and browse through Fournier’s photo collection.

“I love all Jim’s pictures,” he said. “I haven’t bought one yet, but I will probably this trip.”

Although Peterson didn’t make a purchase Friday, he said he’d return during his trip. But not making a sale doesn’t bother Fournier. He enjoys simply visiting with people from all over the world.

Fournier keeps all 150 of his prints in stock in every size he prints them in, from post cards to 24-inch prints. They are all matted and ready to go. They are also available for sale on his website.

Fournier is a virtual Newport Beach promoter and puts out a monthly newsletter as well.

For more information visit www.TalesofBalboa.com.

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