…from one amateur to another

Miniature Photography 1937 by Richard L Simon

Toronto. The shift from large camera photography to miniature hit its stride in 1935 when Fortune magazine dubbed it the minicam revolution. Within a couple of years books were being published to teach the amateur how to embrace the new technology. One of these was called Miniature Photography – from one amateur to another. The amateur in this case was Richard L. Simon, a well-to-do New Yorker and half of the Simon and Schuster publishing house in NYC. The book was published the fall of 1937, a few months after I was born.

Like most books of the period, the paper used doesn’t accommodate clean crisp half tones so the photographs are limited to those printed on whiter clay paper and tipped in at the appropriate spot. The book is a hard cover about 5 x 8 inches and just under 170 pages. Footnotes are used on many pages, to clarify and amplify points, rather than gathered up and listed after each chapter. Appendices address the variation in controls of the Contax and the Rollei.

Simon speaks in the first party voice directly to the reader. He is candid about his advice and choices of camera (Leica), lenses, films, developers, papers, etc. He goes to great length to offer then current costs and ways to save money. He points out the pitfalls of owning a miniature camera and the more satisfying choices of scenes to shoot. Simon cautions that the cheapest processing and print houses are geared to large cameras so they often use ordinary film developer, not fine grain developer demanded by the tiny 35mm negatives. And enlargements are often made by indifferent staff used to the generally sharper large negatives needing less care in the focussing and developing of the print.

Reading it once again reminds me that the transition from a contact print size camera to a miniature camera demanding enlargement to make even a pocket size print viewable was a seismic shift in concept. Of course a decade or two later and 35mm was considered main stream for all but die-hard studio and news photographers.

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