Toronto’s Past: A Look Back

Victor Caratun

Toronto. Meeting, Wed, Feb 19, 2020 at 7:45 pm
BURGUNDY ROOM, Memorial Hall

Toronto’s Past: A Look Back at Social History and Significant Events through Original Period Imagery – Victor D. Caratun, of the Toronto Past Archive

Victor was born and raised in Toronto. He has been a Toronto history enthusiast and an advocate for architectural conservation for many years. Victor is an active member of  the historical and architectural preservation communities. He is a collector of images and ephemera depicting Toronto’s social history and has been interviewed about  collecting by the Toronto Star and Space TV.

“Over the years his interest has specialized  in discovering and retelling Toronto’s social history.  He has presented about Toronto’s social history to collector and historical groups. He is also a historic guide with the Royal Ontario Museum. By profession, Victor is a designated Real Estate Appraiser and a Negotiator for the Ontario Provincial Government acquiring land for capital  improvements. Current Project: Development of his website and a  book about Toronto Social History.

Toronto Past Archive is engaged in numerous activities collecting, preserving, curating and showcasing original antique images and ephemera. The Toronto Past Archive retells Toronto’s Social History through site-specific exhibitions and through social media. The Archive encourages everyone to share their own stories of Toronto’s past.”

Come out and join in as we host Victor. Toronto has a very interesting history as we saw at the  recent presentation (September 2019) by author and photographer John McQuarrie and earlier talks by Mile Filey. NB.George Dunbar has also experimented with Toronto then and now photos.

The public is always welcome. Go to our Programs page for times and directions.

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so long Christie

Christie Blatchford and Louie Palu at Kandahar airport in 2006 by Jim MacDonald of the CTV

Toronto. I don’t often do a post on journalists, but Christie Blatchford is an exception. Here in the big smoke she is well known,  having worked for all four of the big dailies over the years. She was known by at least two of our speakers/members – the late Boris Spremo and Louie Palu, both newspaper photographers who covered world events.

Ms Blatchford succumbed to cancer  on February 12th  this year after a brief struggle. She was 68 years old. I first enjoyed her work when she was a columnist for the Globe.

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PHSC News for February 2020

Leica M9-P Special Edition

Toronto. The latest PHSC News newsletter (19-08) was sent out to all addresses on our MailChimp list. Another tasty issue skillfully prepared by editor Sonja Pushchak and her team.

Page 1 discusses an African-American photographer and his first of its kind cover for Vogue magazine. The article recognizes Black History Month which we celebrate in February. NB. the Hermès Leica kit goes for about $50k to those with deep pockets…

Page 2 introduces Victor Caratun of the Toronto Past Archive who is our speaker this month. And remembering Valentine’s day, Page 3 covers the notorious Valentine’s Day massacre in 1929 Chicago and its resulting social benefits. Following our Auction poster on p 4, we have the controversial Toronto File and its discussion of “green” background screens  in today’s world.

In the Equipment Review on p 6, our  friend and associate David Bridge shows the evolution of Kodak’s logo over a century and more. This is followed by Web Links on p 7 by David as an assist to wife Louise Freyburger (the enhanced “arrival ‘of a train” shows the amazing distance we have come since the early days of movies). NB. all links in the pdf work!

PHSC Events on p 8 tells you what we are up to these days while the Vi and Dot column takes over p 9 to discuss some commonality with Cabaret (I saw its predecessor, “I am a Camera”). And as usual. The Classifieds covers shows, cries for help, and books, all of interest to readers and PHSC members. Click here or on the Leica above to read or print this latest issue. Click on NEWSLETTER in the MENU BAR to see/print older issues.


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swingin’ at the seance

An early (earliest?) street scene in Paris by Daguerre (see George Gilbert’s talk in October, 1995)

Toronto. Did you ever notice that the earliest daguerreotypes where a bit odd? Street scenes showed vehicles or people as ghostly apparitions at best. And people shots were mostly very, very stiff, formal studio portraits. Scenes in motion or at work were almost none existent.

This was for good reason! The cameras, lenses and media of the day were extremely slow. Fast moving things in street scenes were hardly captured; moving things and work scenes were beyond the capability of most photographic practitioners. People usually appeared in studios where the cameras stood on heavy tripods and subjects sat on chairs within the iron grasp of head supports, etc.

The title of this post is from an old Glenn Miller piece I have. It is sung by Dorothy Claire (Marion Hutton was credited with singing the song back in March of 1941, and erroneously listed as the singer in the liner notes of my album). That December, the States entered WW2 and just three years later in mid-December of 1944, Glenn Miller was lost at sea in the English Channel when the airplane carrying him disappeared on its way to France.

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You Oughta Be in Pictures …

LIFE ad for Fairchild Cinephonic 8mm movie camera c1961

Toronto. … as Rudy Vallee sang in the 1934 song of the same name. Just about a quarter decade later, Fairchild promoted its Cinephonic 8mm sound movie camera by advertising a Warner Brothers screen test for Hollywood talent!

The ad touted, “Get your friends or family to help you make your Cinephonic ‘screen test.’ They’ll have as much fun filming it as you have acting in it.”

It was totally unlikely any 8mm movie camera of the era could even compete with the 35mm professional cameras of the day, but it was great fun to promote the Cinephonic and Warner’s stars like Connie Stevens, Sharon Hugueny, Diane McBain and Troy Donahue in the latest Warner Bros film called Parrish.

My thanks to George Dunbar once again for alerting me about this May 5, 1961 ad in LIFE (p19)  for the short lived Fairchild Cinephonic camera. I did a post last month on  the earlier turret model. This model uses an early zoom lens – an expensive lens for an expensive camera).

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KISS Photography

Simplicity of the Polaroid

Toronto. Photography in the terms of cameras followed the Keep it Simple, Stupid (KISS) philosophy for decades from the very beginning.  A box in a box served to adjust focus before bellows and threaded tubes came along. A ground glass served as a focussing screen   – no need for special view finders. A hat or lens cap served as a shutter for many decades. No stops or waterhouse stops were used long before the complex aperture mechanisms arrived.

To take advantage of this history of simplicity, Polaroid compared the simplicity of using their sophisticated camera to using a simple box camera. No mention of the expensive film or one-off prints the cameras made; just simplicity and results in 10 seconds!

A tip of the hat to PHSC member George Dunbar for  this lovely old May 12, 1961 advertisement from LIFE magazine (pp106-7).

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Photographic Canadiana 45-4 issued

Carter and Lansdale at Gateway Postal Station with boxes of the latest journal.

Toronto. Don’t look now, but the latest issue of your favourite photo magazine hit the distribution network last Tuesday afternoon (February 4th). David Bridge and I joined editor Bob Lansdale Monday morning (3rd) to package this issue. David brought along rubber fingers to help speed up the process.

A new Xerox printer used last issue acts like a large two-sided colour laser copy machine spitting out the sorted and stapled issues ready to be trimmed for packing and mailing. This issue should be in member mail boxes already, or in a few days. 45-4 contains Toronto Notes for June, September, October, and November plus a photo essay on December’s Show and Tell (a favourite annual event).

This is followed by part one of an abbreviation of the award winning thesis by Ms Hana Keluznik on the colour photos in Britain of Ms Agnes Warburg (including a couple of pages in colour). Next is a book review on the “What’s Who” book; three Graflex treasures; and an explanation of the 1930s complex colour method called, “The Vivex Colour Process“.

Not a member? You should be! Just look to the upper right and choose the destination and 1 or 3 years, then pay via PayPal. No account needed – just your credit card!


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PHSC Consignment Auction March 31, 2020

PHSC Consignment Auction

Toronto. We’re having an auction! A special auction! Everyone Welcome! The lots are being grabbed up fast! We may have room for you at the door, BUT send your photos to and your items will be vetted and valid items sent on to me for inclusion in a web slide show here.

Our auction will be held at the same location as before. Click the poster at the upper left for details or click here. Never been to our previous auctions in Long Branch (South West Toronto)? Then click here and scroll down for a map.

Admission and parking both free!

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’cause cheap is how I feel

Keystone K-20 8mm camera

Toronto. If you were living in the Eastern States in 1961, you could buy a  Webcor Regent Coronet stereo tape recorder and get a free movie camera. The camera was the low cost Keystone twenty model with a single f/2.3 fixed focus lens – basically a box camera for 8mm.

The tape recorder was a reel to reel audio recorder which came with two microphones. Such machines were very popular at the time. In the late 1950s, my friend Terry and I took his massive Ampro reel to reel tape recorder backstage at the Rymark (on Peel) in Montreal and recorded a session by Bo Diddly when he was a rising name in music.

Keystone made many cameras over the years. The company was established in Boston in 1919 and survived until 1968 when it was sold to Berkey Photo and moved to Clifton NJ. as  part of Berkey’s camera division. I bought my dad a Keystone 8mm camera in the late 1950s that looked like this model except it had a turret. The Twenty was likely Keystone’s entry level model as higher priced cameras sported turrets and faster lenses in those days before reasonably priced zoom lenses.

Thanks once again to my good friend George Dunbar for spotting this historic advertisement in the March 17, 1961 issue of LIFE magazine. NB. the title of this post  is from the Cowboy Junkies’s haunting “‘cause cheap is how I feel” tune sung by Margo Timmins on their “the caution horses” CD. The group is Canadian, started in Montreal and later moved to Toronto.

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re-creating the war that started Canada

George Dunbar’s photographic find in LIFE

Toronto. Canada was formed in 1867 in a well known conference held on spud island (PEI). The founding of the Dominion was Britain’s reaction to the US Civil War and its means to protect the British colonies in North America from the Bellicose Americans.

Those of us steeped in photographic history realize the civil war promoted the tintype and wet-plate photographer Matthew Brady’s ill-fated venture in making war prints to be sold in galleries as mementoes. The main drawback to the scheme was the glacial slow speed of cameras and wet-plate media. Brady could not take any action scenes, only dead soldiers, stiff portraits and scenery.

Brady’s efforts are now a solid basis for the civil war histories and a source for re-enactments such as this one discovered by fellow PHSC member George Dunbar on pp86-7 in the March 17, 1961 issue of LIFE magazine. The essay reminded me of a 1954 song “Old Folks” by the Sauter Finegan orchestra, which I have on LP and CD.

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hello darkness, my old friend

scene setting HDR B&W at ISO 400.

Toronto. Art and Paul may well have sung about night photography sixty years ago with their Sounds of Silence song in 1964. Mid last century film ASA was very slow – in fact a rating of 200 or so was considered a fast film!

Photos like this night shot, post-snow storm a few years ago (February, 2013) were impossible to take a century or so ago. Films and lenses were too slow; optical stability technology didn’t exist; HDR was for darkrooms and tripods only.

I took this shot with a Sony NEX-6 using a B&W setting, built-in HDR, and ISO 400. Taken at f/4, 1/2 second shutter speed (and I used a tripod – getting too unsteady as I age).



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