Our very first OUTDOOR Auction is October 4th

Toronto. If the current COVID-19 rules or better apply next month, the PHSC plans to hold its first OUTDOOR auction. This will be an ESTATE auction held at the Trident Hall. Details are shown here in the poster below created by our PHSC News editor:

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follow da money

A free professional camera …

Toronto. When I was a kid, magazines were rife with ads offering ways to get rich. These ads made it seem so easy.

The ad at left, was aimed at wishful future photographers. The ad even promised a free “professional camera”, whatever that was. In 1925, when International Studios, Inc of Chicago ran this ad, $50 to $100 a week was a fortune earned by very few. In fact, three decades later, I made less than $25 a week in a small Ontario town (fresh out of school and with an amateur radio licence in hand). In the early years of the 1900s, Chicago was well known for its studios – all be it movie studios – giving credence to this advertisement.

Nothing is free. Companies like this made their money by selling the naive and gullible wanna be’s instructions. In this ad, the make and details of the free “professional camera” were purposely left unstated so the reader could  dream about this potential bargain. Sadly, the profession of photography took (and takes) SKILL, especially in 1925. A very intelligent person could learn the art free by visiting his local library and borrowing the photography books of the day. He would still need to have good salesmanship and business acumen to succeed – tough to get by answering an ad.

The money saved by the aspiring photographer was better spent on a good camera of his choice. Studio and darkroom could be set up at home initially and later moved to a more promising location once the business began to prosper.

A big thank you to friend and PHSC member (as well as photography historian), George Dunbar, for sharing this tidbit of history with me. Today such ads have been replaced with telemarketers and unsolicited emails – some valid, many crooked to put it mildly (I am a sceptic by nature).

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another dimension

c1925 article on how we see stereo and how to take photos in stereo

Toronto. Paintings and regular photos are done in two dimensions. Careful use of shadows (lighting for photos) give a more modelled view of the subject.

Most humans have two eyes 2 to 3 inches apart giving two images of any view at two slightly different angles of view. The human brain fuses these two images to give a three dimensional (stereo) view.

This article in the May 1925 issue of Science and Invention magazine explains stereo and how to take and correctly align stereo photos taken with these inexpensive box cameras. The stereo fad seems to wax and wan. Every half century or so stereo interest peaks once again. c1900 stereo cards are popular collectible items again. Fake stereo cards exist. The same photo is used on both left and right making the result totally flat when viewed correctly.

In the 1950s stereo popularity rose again with special stereo attachments and cameras. The stereo fad seems to fade because, like movies, special care had to be taken and on top of that few people could “free view” stereo so special viewers were needed. Anaglyphs using two different colour allowed both images to be printed on one sheet.

Special books of stereo drawings using repeated symbols could be bought late last century and free viewed by many people but only crude drawings could be viewed. For a short time so called lenticular views could be taken with a four lens camera and special processing of the prints.

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the dark slide of the room

Dark Slide partly open in film holder

Toronto. Plate holders and later film holders became common in the later 1800s and early 1900s to protect sensitized emulsions from unexpected exposure to light. These clever gadgets, which came with a dark slide that could be removed for exposure through the lens, were mounted on the back of the camera (room, etc in Latin). These holders held sensitized glass plates or cut film allowing the photographer to take many exposures by simply removing and exchanging the entire holder.

The dark slide could be removed for exposure, then flipped and reinserted to remind the photographer that the protected sensitized medium had been exposed in the camera. The  holder could contain one plate or two depending on construction. Once roll film took off  the holders and their dark slides disappeared.

The remaining outpost for many years were the venerable cameras like the Graphic and Graflex lines that continued to use plate holder backs long after roll film was common place.

NB. The post title is a riff on the epic 1973 album by Pink Floyd called, “Dark Side of the Moon“.

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anything you can do …

A camera collector’s collector

Toronto. Camera collecting has no firm rules. Some folk collect quantity, some quality, and some both. The late Jim Matthew managed to collect some 3,000 plus cameras ranging from the inexpensive to the exotic. A marine engineer, Greater Manchester born Jim’s work took him around the world (including 12 years in Canada).

Jim began his collecting enthusiasm while visiting his daughter in Vancouver, BC. Jim retired to Scotland and on his death, his wife Dorothy emigrated to Canada. Steven Brocklehurst did a short review of Jim and his collection for the BBC Scotland News on September 11th of this year.

Thanks to my good friend and fellow PHSC member Celio Barreto (our programme secretary, Japanese photography expert, and, Instagram &  ZOOM meister) for sharing this piece on camera collecting with me. NB, the title of the post is also the title of a 1946 song composed by Irving Berlin for the Broadway musical, “Annie Get Your Gun“. Unlike the song, few collectors can claim to better Jim’s over 3,000 old cameras!

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if it moves, shoot it …

Ad for Kodak in LIFE August, 1967

Toronto. An old military saying was, “If it moves salute it; if not, paint it”. My colour blind uncle was a painter on a military base after the end of WW2. He told me the paint tins were marked to say the house, room, and wall to be painted, so his eyesight was not an issue.

An advertisement in the August 18th, 1967 edition of LIFE magazine (p 85 – one page from the end), promoted Kodak’s super 8 movie cartridge, colour film, a new projector and a new palm size camera, solving two of the problems vexing would-be amateur home movie buffs – flipping a camera film reel and threading a projector.

The ads never mentioned the squinty results, lack of sound, cost, tedious editing, steep learning curve to accomplish decent results, cheap lenses, resolution issues, etc. After all, Kodak’s goal was to sell film, lots of film. Buy the projector and camera – and keep buying film.

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the importance of being a photographer

Yonge St looking North from Temperance in Toronto c1903

Toronto. The internet, streaming services, and television have a voracious appetite for videos. A century or so ago it was magazines and newspapers with the heavy appetites for still images and drawings.

Any time before 1839, your ancestor had to have deep pockets indeed (or live in a ritzy area) to have any chance at all of a landscape painting or a good likeness by a competent artist. The longer photography was around, the cheaper and more popular it became . Many streetscapes, nature shots, and portraits were taken by professionals. In time, most folk had a family snapshot enthusiast who snapped family events, portraits, or perhaps even workplace photos.

After photography became commonplace, it was possible for most descendants to see where their ancestors lived or what looked like or even how they earned a living! An amazing change in an era of such rapid changes in travel, communication, education and entertainment.

Before its ill fated report was released, Google’s Sidewalk Labs collaborated with the City of Toronto Archives to produce an amazing website showing both vintage photographs and the date and location in Toronto where they were taken.

My thanks to our sports photographer, author, past PHSC president (and more), Les Jones  for sharing this tidbit of history with me. Old TO by Sidewalk Labs is a truly great website to browse around. What’s in your neighbourhood?

NOTE: The post title is a riff on the 1895 Oscar Wilde play called, “The Importance of Being Ernest“. (A favourite play of my Wife’s when she was a school girl.)

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PHSC News for September 2020

Heartbeat camera made by Korean artist Kwanghun Hyun

Toronto. Well, it’s September already and the infamous COVID-19 pandemic is still with us!

Meantime, our editor extraordinaire, Sonja Pushchak, and her team have composed the first issue of PHSC News (20-03 – September 2020) after our non- break.

Page 1 covers Michael Wesely’s Stilleben (Still Life); followed by page 2 and a virtual rendering of “The 3D Wizardry of Mark Forbes” in place of the usual PHSC Presents. Page 3 takes a swipe at “LIFE magazine and the pandering of photography”; while page 4 promotes our very first Outdoor Auction (COVID-19 rules permitting, of course). Page 5 covers Phillipe Halsman’s Jump book and its relevance at the time. David reintroduces the legendary f/4 “Beer Can” zoom lens, followed by his trio of web links helping partner Louise.

Page 8 covers alternatives for our monthly meetings plus a note from Celio, our programme coordinator. On page 9, Vi and Dot are retired and replaced by Ivy & Izzy who talk about the works of Jerry Uelsmann. As usual, this issue wraps up with the classifieds on page 10.

P.S. You can visit this issue by clicking here, or by g0ing to the menu item NEWSLETTER at the top of the page. There is a drop down menu that takes you to older issues dating back a couple of decades to the very beginning.

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flash … bang …

a safer flash in 1926

Toronto. In the 19th and early 20th century indoor and night photography required flash for a decent exposure. Unfortunately, the magnesium powder that created a bright light when ignited was unstable and unless great care was taken, it would suddenly explode creating both a flash and a loud bang frightening and potentially injuring both subject and photographer alike.

In the 1920s,  a clever German design used a new process to convert the magnesium powder to a ribbon and housed the unused reel of magnesium in a fire-proof box. Only enough ribbon was exposed to give a suitable amount of light. Eventually, the magnesium was contained in a glass bulb and ignited by a small battery when ever a brief burst of light was needed.

This drawing and article was discovered by George Dunbar in the February 1926 edition of the magazine Science and Invention during his research into photographic history. We are very grateful that our friend and fellow PHSC member shared his find with us.

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stick a pin in it

1927 drawing of a pinhole camera

Toronto. Just over three years ago I did a post on the simple pinhole camera. This wonderful solution to a camera for all even had a day devoted to photographs taken by pinhole cameras (a day in April).

My friend George Dunbar discovered this sketch in a 1927 magazine’s Q&A column along with some other questions as shown. My thanks to George for sharing this bit of nostalgia turned up during his research into photographic history.

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