a head for news

Who’s a camera?

Toronto. In the 1950s TV was rapidly taking hold as a source for daily news (not the mess of so called “entertainment” we see today amongst the plethora of commercials). Newsreels of the day were shot on film in clips, edited and spliced before being broadcast. And as usual, demanded a tripod for stability so viewers didn’t feel sea-sick.

The November 14 issue of LIFE magazine near the end of 1955, posted this photograph of Bill Horton of Oklahoma City station KWTV in city council with his improvised replacement for the heavy tripod usually used in TV newsreels. Bill’s photograph appears in the Miscellany column of LIFE  magazine (page 204). A thanks to Goldie for catching this bit of history!

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shine a light on me

Viewlex Projector c 1955.

Toronto. Projectors predate both photography and electricity. Called magic lanterns, they were often used by both magicians and charlatans. There are even people today who collect magic lanterns and slides (the Magic Lantern Society was formed about the same time as the PHSC). Magic lanterns and drawn coloured slides were made as toys as well. They were used to entertain and enlighten both adults and children before movies, television, and computers became so common.

After photography arrived in 1839, the devices became popular in churches to project biblical scenes illustrating guest talks and the words of hymns allowing the congregation  (those who were literate) to follow along. Continue reading

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London Spring Show

London Show by Spike Bell, M.Photog.CPP MPA

Toronto. Spike Bell of Tecumseh, Ontario (Windsor)  sent us a series of photographs he took recently (April 14th) at the very successful show over in London, Ontario arranged by Ron and Maureen Tucker (who also attend our shows).

Spike wrote, “A great camera show with a good attendance, put on by Ron and Maureen Tucker, good attendance including myself…very well done and congratulation to the Tuckers.

“Best wishes and on to their next show. The photos enclosed are mine and you are free to use with a credit line please.”

Spike’s enthusiasm was repeated by our own president Clint Hryhorijiw who was also in attendance at the London show.

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photography & immigration

©Vincenzo Pietropaolo.
Two sisters meeting for the first time after 25 years, at Toronto International Airport. from the book “Not Paved with Giold” (BTL, 2006).

Toronto. Vincenzo Petropaolo, author, photographer, PHSC member and PHSC speaker has been invited by the North Toronto Historical Society and the Northern District Library to give the above presentation beginning at 7:30 pm this coming April 24th, at the TPL in room 224, 40 Orchard View Boulevard, Toronto, ON  M4R 1B9.

Refreshments will be available at 7:15 pm. The subject is of interest to  both the photographic fraternity and historians. Vince reminds us that we in Toronto host one of the largest Italian communities in the world.

I have two mementos (a century old gingerbread clock and a CNR brakeman’s lantern) given to me by an old neighbour, Mrs Tony Caruso, after her husband died and she returned to Italy to be with her daughter Grace and her family in Milan. Her husband, who was always Mr Tony to me, joined the local utility after retiring from the railway. Each summer he and his wife sold garden fresh vegetables to cottagers and tourists alike at a nearby beach. In fact, I grew up in a house built on land my father bought from Mr Tony.

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Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris c1880

Toronto. We were all shocked to hear and see the terrible fire that severely damaged this world renown church over the past week.

PHSC member Harold Staats sent me an 1880s photograph of the famous cathedral (seen above left).

Harold writes, “I recently purchased a few old photos of Notre Dame Cathedral at the last photographic fair. It’s one of the [most] famous and photographed images of France. I thought it might be appropriate if you are doing a story on this catastrophe to use this as one of the images from the 1880s in the next issue of the newsletter.”

I passed the photograph on to our newsletter editor Sonja Pushchak for consideration. As an aside, I was once told that the Mary, Queen of the World cathedral in Montreal was a quarter size copy of the famous Paris cathedral (apparently it is a copy, but of St Peter’s in Rome). While not Catholic, I personally attended the Montreal cathedral once decades ago before I began university studies in Montreal (back when René Lévesque Boulevard was called Dorchester Boulevard).

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stereo, stereo, everywhere

Graphic Stereo Camera

Toronto. In the mid 1950s stereo was popular again. Graphic, to find a niche, set its marketeers loose. The high end camera spot was taken by the pricy Realist so the marketing folk at Graphic aimed at the low end with a twist. While the camera was basically a dual lens box camera with fixed focus and a simple time and instantaneous setting shutter, the camera was touted as  having Depthmaster auto-focus  and easy use with only one dial to set. It was advertised as an easy to use quality camera for a low price of $66.50 – $13 more to add a case and flash gun!

The fixed focus lenses were f/4 wide open and could be set for the outdoor daylight –  cloudy, hazy, bright, brilliant, and special (f/16). The aperture plus shutter instantaneous setting of about 1/50 were intended for the colour film of the day. The camera was advertised in LIFE magazine (issue Nov 7, 1956 p.124) and Popular Photography (Nov 1956 p.11).

Lots of stereo cameras to choose in the 1950s. 3 or 4 decades later a PHSC member loaned me a Kodak Brownie stereo camera to try out (I also had a Stereoly attachment for a screw-mount Leica at the time).

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the power of marketing (Argus C-four)

Argus C-four camera 1955
ad courtesy of LIFE

Toronto. In the 1950s Argus attempted to introduce a camera model to join its famous brick (C-3). The C-four was touted as being as good as most (German) cameras, even those of much higher cost. The C-four was made throughout the 1950s but wasn’t as popular as the C-3. The C-four for the most part used a single lens. The odd version allowed interchangeable Argus lenses. Once SLR cameras became the standard and especially when the Japanese cameras launched in the USA, the Argus brand rapidly disappeared.

This is an ad for the C-four courtesy of LIFE magazine on page 129 of its October 15, 1955 issue. The full ad shows a huge flash gun sitting on top of the camera in a hot shoe – another push for the amateur flash guns and bulbs of the day. The gun was an accessory and could not be mounted when the camera case was in use.

Thanks to George Dunbar for unearthing this bit of nostalgia.

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we are old

Brigden’s on Richmond St Toronto in 1925

Toronto In 1925, when this photograph was taken, photography was less than a century  old. Fredrick Brigden and his wife had emigrated here in the 1870s from England. He was an engraver by trade and established a small engraving firm here in 1874. The firm became the well respected Toronto Engraving Company in 1877. The photo shown here is an interior shot of Brigden’s Limited (1912-1955).

The Toronto Engraving Company became a family business in 1888, and merged with the Rous and Mann Press nearly century later in 1979. Many companies grew in Toronto catering to the publishing trade.

My title above for this post  is a riff off When We Are Old, a European song sung by Asaf Avidan. I first heard the lyrics on a car commercial.

This photograph is from a better resolution one contained in the archives of the Toronto Public Library (TPL).  My thanks to George Dunbar for discovering this bit of our city’s history and the evolution of photography here.

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my dad’s camera

Kodak Junior SIX-20
1935-1937 Model

Toronto. When my father went west to Saskatchewan to help with the harvest as a youth, he took with him a box camera that he used to record life on the prairies. On the way home, the little camera was lost – dad thought it was left on the train at some point.  In the late 1930s when I struggled into this strange world, dad felt a need once again to photograph family events. He bought a Kodak folder called the Kodak Junior Six-20.

After each use, the camera was always returned to its box and carefully placed in the top drawer of the buffet in the living room. This version of the SIX-20 was only made from 1935-1937 according to McKeown’s. The first picture I saw from it was a picture of me a few months old sitting on my grandmother’s lap.

This camera was a big step up for dad. It had a fancier Doublet lens with apertures from f/11 to f/32, (no click stops) and a No. 0 KODON shutter with settings T, B, 1/25th, 1/50th, and 1/100th of a second. A big jump from the box camera’s fixed aperture and “T” and “I” shutter (about 1/25th in”I” for instantaneous setting).

In spite of this new flexibility, the slow films of the day precluded the camera’s use beyond outdoors  during bright days unless special steps were taken to increase the lighting indoors. The camera has an unused 1/4 inch tripod thread and an unused cable release screw. I can still see my dad standing over his camera squinting in the viewfinder and carefully squeezing off the shutter to add to our family history. Film and prints were relatively expensive in the 1930s – 1950s so the camera still looks like new today.

While the plate affixed to it’s bed says “Made in Canada” it was more likely  “assembled” in Canada from parts made in Rochester and sent across the lake to Kodak Heights just north of the city (mid-city today) in Mount Denis. Customs duties of the day were less if assembly was completed here. The little instruction booklet includes a catalogue and a note pasted on page one stating  “prices on some articles do not apply in Canada“.

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photographs indoors

1930s Kodak Brochure

Toronto. Can you imagine a media so insensitive and cameras so slow that a special technique was needed to show amateurs how they could take photos indoors at night. And worse, the resulting negatives and prints were black and white exposures!

In the mid 1930s Kodak published this free brochure to show amateurs how they could take indoor night time photos with any (Kodak) camera having a ‘time’ (T) shutter setting and at least an f/6.3 lens. All they needed were Mazda photoflood lights, or Mazda flash bulbs, and a Kodak reflector and Kodak “SS” Panchromatic film.

Kodak, like many photographic industry giants, earned their money from film and paper purchases more than from hardware. Cameras and accessories were offered so you would buy more Kodak film, paper, and chemistry. As the daytime amateur market reached capacity, new sources of revenue were investigated. One promising new revenue was from the promotion of indoor night time photographs.

“High speed” film, and flood lights let you hand hold the camera, or with a hand held flash bulb holder and reflector, the camera could be placed on a nearby table, set to ‘T’ on the shutter, and the flash bulb triggered at just the right moment. The camera shutter was clicked to set it open, and then after the flash was triggered, clicked again to close. Easy-peasy in the years before smartphones!

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