the eighth by ZOOM

Toronto. We held our eighth COVID-19 inspired exec meeting via ZOOM (This is beginning to feel like normal). Thank you Celio for arranging the meeting once again. Key changes are shown below. Toronto is in stage 2 modified at present as we enter the second wave of COVID-19. ALL live events are cancelled at least until 2021. Our monthly meeting venue (North York Memorial Hall) is closed to events by the city until at least December 31, 2020. We hope to do meetings beginning November 18 via video. Stayed tuned.

PHSC News goes out shortly for November. Sign up at for a free pdf copy. Members get specials plus the journal via pdf. Contact me if you are a member and HAVE NOT seen the pdfs. Some members have unsubscribed to MailChimp; some emails are invalid; and others have no email on file with the society. Any questions? Just drop me a note at

Our October Exec meeting via ZOOM


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what the deuce is a duex?

Kodak Duex c1940

Toronto. In the days of film, Kodak was well known for its many inexpensive cameras. Kodak made its money by the sale of film and other materials. The cheap but sturdy cameras were great film burners! This inexpensive camera was only made in 1940-42. By swapping a front plate it could say “MADE IN U.S.A.” or “MADE IN CANADA” as this one does.

The Duex uses 620 film and has an f/11 doublet lens mounted in a bakelite helical telescoping front. This example is courtesy of member Mark Singer, who collects cameras badged as Kodak Canada, and as made in Canada or Toronto. Mark brought this one – complete with its original box – to our 2019 Show and Tell meeting last December (before this nasty pandemic hit us in full force closing the Memorial Hall).

The little Kodak was also mentioned in our Journal Vol 38-2 when it was part of a story of Stan White and his collection.

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when photography was deadly

Kodak Safety Film

Toronto. Have you ever wondered why the historic old movie films were so hard to find? And why archives like the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) preface really old films as “remastered” from pieces found at various other archives?

At the beginning of the last century, the base for film material – movie and still – was the dangerous Nitrate film. It was attractive for its high optical quality and clarity. Unfortunately, this film proved highly unstable in archives and tended to ignite by spontaneous combustion. Fortunately it gave off a strong acetic acid (vinegar) smell as it disintegrated before bursting into flames and burning with highly toxic fumes.

Mid last century a shift was made to so called safety or Cellulose acetate film which didn’t suddenly burst into flames. Since old films were shot on Nitrate film, it was less costly to abandon them rather than remaster them on safety stock. Some WW2 surplus film was Nitrate too and would slowly disintegrate and give off a strong odour of vinegar warning any would be photographer.

During the pursuit of film history, my friend George Dunbar came across this article in the August 1929 issue of Science and Invention. The article recounts a disaster at a Cleveland Hospital in May of 1929 where x-ray film caused a fire with toxic fumes killing members of both the patient body and staff.

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Amalgamated Photo History Newsletters

Amalgamated Photo History Newsletters 1-6

Toronto. We issued the 6th in our series of exchange newsletters recently (since we are unable to hold our regular monthly meetings, members received this pdf version of the amalgamated newsletters from our exchange members who gave their blessing for inclusion in this venture. In this case it is the “Re-Union Issue of Cascade Panorama”.

“In October 2010, editor Ralph London of the Cascade Photographic Historical Society assembled a Re-Union Issue of his Cascade Panorama newsletter which had last published in December 2003. It was a most interesting issue bringing together great authors and stories that needed to be told.”

I hinted these packages were coming for members, ” … we elected to compile other material in pdf files ready to send to members IF they supplied an email address AND had a fast enough internet connection to receive the 2 – 10 mb or so pdf files. …”.

Well, the Volume 1-6 file (4.8 MB) went out last Saturday, November 21. If you didn’t get it but you do get our newsletters, drop me a note ( I will verify you are a 2020/2021 member and send off a copy. If you are a current member and didn’t see a copy, please check your junk folder. This and all other specials will only be sent to paid members. Not one yet? No big deal – pull your plastic and use the PayPal set up at the top right of this web page. Note that we will continue to send our PHSC News to all who are on our MailChimp list – PHSC member or not.

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the time has come, the walrus said …

editing a photo with macOS 11 (Big Sur)

Toronto. When photography first burst forth in 1839, lenses were made by opticians and cameras by them or others. As time progressed, optical houses began to make both cameras and lenses. Some like Zeiss also made lenses for others.

By the time film came on the scene, the media manufacturers like Kodak, Ansco, Agfa, etc. began making and selling cameras and lenses too. Later last century, electronic companies like Sony and Panasonic got in the act.

In this century, we seem to ignore the camera makers (other than the professionals and advanced amateurs who choose Leica, Canon, Sony, Nikon, etc.). We seem more interested in the make of our smartphones which always includes a camera and lens assembly. Their electronics in this age of digital technology can imitate depth of field, bokeh, etc. and always assure a technically perfect result (sometimes blurry or grainy from shaky fingers or poor lighting).

Where once one spent hundreds of dollars on photo adjustment software like Photoshop, today many such tools are included in the smartphone and computer at no added cost. Only collectors and some professionals enthuse over camera models and lenses. The rest of us just use our smartphones and the “free” editing software. The time has come …

This post’s name is a line from the whimsical 1860s poem by the reverend Charles  Dodgson (better known by his pen name of Lewis Carroll) called, “The Walrus and the Carpenter“. The first full length book I can remember reading was “Through the Looking Glass” – that and books like Black Beauty, Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, etc.

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be positive

1929 Amateur B&W Movie Processing

Toronto. Did you ever wonder how negatives were converted to positive images – where white was white and black was black? The key was to process the negative, then bleach the film rather than fix it (removes only the developed silver), expose the remaining silver halides, develop again and then fix the film.

This was most commonly done with amateur movie film creating a positive print for projection. Decades later, three layers of dyes and colour couplers in the colour film tri-pack transformed colour negatives to colour positives – either amateur movies or transparencies (slides).

In the January, 1929 issue of Science and Invention magazine, a system used for the  commercial processing of amateur B&W negative film into B&W positive film ready for projection is shown and explained.

Thanks to friend George Dunbar for sharing this tidbit of photographic history with me. Nowadays we make videos in full colour on smartphones ready for sharing with friends beside you or around the world. And with nary a bath or external process in sight! How times have changed.

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don’t take your camera to town, son

photo of a car wreck in the 1930s or 40s

Toronto. Once photography took off and became simple for everyone to use (roll film and drug store processing) it became a means to record assets and asset losses amongst other purposes.

When automobile accidents became epidemic, Insurance companies demanded proof of loss. Perhaps the photographic print of the damaged vehicle served as this proof (when I was a kid, people said a picture was worth a 1,000 words and no one thought a photo could be faked).

Nowadays, there are assessment centres to determine damages for Insurance companies, leaving stills and videos to families and TV stations.

NB. The title of this post is a riff on the Johnny Cash ballad, “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town

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now just a minute!

Anatol Josepho at his Photo Booth in 1927

Toronto. Do you remember as a kid at a small town fair or big city mall taking a black and white photo strip of you and your friends behind a curtain in a phone booth like box? The strip popped out for 25 cents in a little tray out side the booth just minutes after the last snap you took.

George Dunbar sent me this page from Science and Invention’s January 1927 issue on the Photobooth. Incredibly these old automated gadgets are still available today for rent – updated to digital  technology with many more bells and whistles than last century (all in colour now).

George has a keen interest in photo booths as he discovered a Canadian invention called the Phototeria. It was patented in 1928 and marketed a year or two later. The automated machine was invented by the McCowans (of McCowan Road fame) in Scarborough (eastern side of the city of Toronto). George lives in Scarborough and was delighted to discover some original phototeria booths just north of the city.

You can read George’s article in Photographic Canadiana 33-1 (May, 2007). George also wrote a book review a year later in issue 34-1. The first marketable version using paper was invented by the gentleman shown at left, a Russian immigrant to the Big Apple named Anatol Josepho. Note that all PHSC members have a dvd disk with issues 1 – 40 and more!

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PhotoEd Winter 2020/21

Winter 2020 – 2021 Issue

Toronto. It’s all there in black and white: the latest edition of PhotoEd magazine featuring beautiful B&W photographs. Haven’t seen it yet?

Well, for pity’s sake BUY a subscription! Just go to this site and sign up now. We thank you at PHSC, Rita thanks you at PhotoEd, Canada thanks you for the support, and you will thank yourself. Remember, you can choose hard copy by mail or an online version on your computer or smartphone.

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Winterize your camera? How quaint!

LIFE Magazine ad in 1968 for Sylvania flashcubes

Toronto. Smartphones have become the most common cameras today according to some social media outlets. Owners have no need to “winterize” or even repair their smartphones. Usually the battery wears out but long before that the current model becomes obsolete and is likely replaced.

Not so in the late 1960s when film was still popular. Sylvania ran the above ad in the November 22, 1968 issue of LIFE magazine to promote its line of flashcubes (one of many high quality flashcubes/bulbs). “Winterize” simply meant taking photos indoors during the cold months and using flashcubes, of course. So quaint! Film cameras did need periodic cleaning,  lubrication, and calibration. Like film, all cameras needed flash bulbs or flashcubes if their owners did not have electronic flash for night or indoors or fill flash purpose.

A tip of the historical cap to friend George Dunbar for sharing this bit of nostalgic advertisement with us.

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five for one

five publishers / one night – PhotoEd

Toronto. My fav editor Rita Godlevskis over at PhotoEd is hosting a publishers conference tomorrow the 17th online.

Rita writes, “If you have ever had questions about periodical PUBLISHING in Canada, here is YOUR chance to ask your questions + get answers and advice from a NATIONAL PANEL of publishers.

“Featuring: Maxine Proctor @blackflashmag, Jacquelyn Ross @thecapilanoreview,
Sanja Lukac @seities,
Lauren Lavery @peripheralreview,
Rita Godlevskis @PhotoEDmagazine

TIX for this VIRTUAL EVENT are: $20 / $10. for students.
4pm – YVR / 5pm – YYC / 7pm – YYZ / 8pm Eastern”

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