We had two very interesting speakers tonight as demonstrated by the very active Q&A sessions. Both speakers are PHSC members and exhibitors at our fairs. Russ Forfar, now semi-retired, was in the camera repair business for many decades. Our main speaker, Lincoln Ross, has been doing print and slide restoration and conservation for an equally long time.
Russ Forfar. Kominek Camera & Optical Instrument Sales and Service on Yonge below Wellesley was founded in 1951 by three immigrants. In 1988, Russ and the late Hugh Cooley bought the business. Parts of the business which went to the Kominek estate, were auctioned at Waddington’s including a collimator (now in Russ’s hands). A decade later, Hugh died and Russ elected to buy out his share. From the beginning, Russ was customer interface on the front desk in spite of his technical training – he did the triage – deciding if an instrument should go upstairs to independent repair agents or be scrapped. Unclaimed items were tagged for a grace period before being junked or sold. When the Yonge Street lease was up, rent escalation forced Russ to move to a College Street basement.
Russ spoke of many unusual events that happened during his days in the camera repair business. One of the strangest repairs was to a 200 pound pair of binoculars. The binoculars were traced to a WW2 German U-boat! Russ related how he was offered the option for authorized repair of Russian Kiev Cameras. He sent a sample Kiev66 camera upstairs for assessment. It was poorly made with many holes drilled oversize, filled and re-drilled again. The construction was flimsy and primitive except for the lenses which were the usual high quality optics manufactured by Zeiss. The offer was declined.
Russ closed the store front about five years ago and moved the business to his home, keeping the same telephone number and website. In the process some $30,000 dollars worth of camera parts for old cameras had to be junked as the independent repair business was a dying art with the advent of electronics and battery driven devices. Parts and modules could be replaced but the device still had to go to the factory representative for a software reset.
Lincoln Ross. Lincoln mentioned that he spoke to the PHSC two decades ago. Tonight he displayed a large number of examples (Mark Singer set up a video camera and projected the examples on screen). Lincoln noted that before restoring any image you need to identify its content and determine the process used in its creation.
He said storage conditions are critical as well as storage material. For example, plastic sleeves were better protection for any prints and negatives stored in a location prone to water damage – it is easier to peel plastic away from media than paper – although under pressure, plastic sleeves may cause “ferrotyping” (flat areas on the surface of a print). Also, labels on plastic sleeves are bad as any label glue will wrinkle the sleeve in time. Surprisingly, Lincoln warned against using glassine negative envelopes (popular many years ago). They are okay in a dry location but in damp areas the glassine sticks to the emulsion with devastating results.
Modern day digital prints are delicate too – the image is deposited on the surface and easy to damage by rubbing. Storage media change from time to time and may no longer be read by more modern devices. Also the storage media itself may deteriorate. Key wording can be a problem. Lincoln related how he couldn’t find a source for a particular print. Even a visit to the archives wasn’t helpful – until some one recognized the print and it’s source.Turns out the search was for cafe while the image was keyworded with café. The search program wasn’t sophisticated enough to see the two words were identical without the accent. The meeting ended after a thoughtful and entertaining Q&A period.