Filmos – well made movie equipment of yesteryear

A once famous logo

Toronto. Bell & Howell was founded over a century ago in Chicago. Initially, it was famous for high end professional cameras and projectors. Over 80 years ago they introduced their Filmo marque on home model cameras and projectors.

In later years, the company collaborated with Canon on still cameras, moved into 16mm movie equipment, supplied media gear to schools and offices, abandoned the movie business, slowly dispersed their non-information technology lines, and finally succumbed to the digital forces selling their trademarks to makers of cheap digital gear. The company merged a number of times and was renamed Bell and Howell. The company, owned by Versa Capital was spun off as a separate subsidiary in October of 2017. It now makes and sells direct mail and parcel labelling equipment.

My thanks to Goldie of Toronto for catching this memorable advertisement from the February 28, 1949 issue of LIFE magazine. As a matter of interest, one of our presidents, the late Bill Belier, was heavily involved with Bell & Howell’s Canadian branch around the time of or shortly after this ad when the company was known for photographic products.

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the little Ansco Panda

Ansco Panda from an ad
in the December 6, 1948
LIFE magazine.

Toronto. In the mid 1900s the vast majority of folk bought Kodak cameras and films. For the rebels (and second string stores) there were Ansco cameras and films. The Kodak Baby Brownie came out in 1934 and was made under various names and in various configurations. Early versions sported a folding frame finder while later ones had a tiny eye level optical finder. They all took the size 127 film with small contact prints of about 1.5 x 2.5 inches. The one I had in 1948 was the style made about 1936 – 1954.

To compete, Ansco sold the Panda model made from about 1939 to 1950. While it was still a box camera with a very basic shutter and lens, it used the bigger 620 film (about 2-1/4 inch square contact prints) and had a large, bright  waist level viewfinder, aping the very expensive twin-lens reflex cameras of the day like the Rollei.

My thanks to Toronto’s Goldie for suggesting this December 6, 1948 ad from LIFE magazine showing the Panda as the ideal Christmas gift. This model was comparable to my then new Baby Brownie which went with me on a grade six bus tour to Midland, Ontario.

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Spiess at Bulger this April

Karl Spiess

Toronto. The late Karl Spiess of Germany took many photographs in war torn Europe during the second world war (WW2). recently announced that the Stephen Bulger Gallery here in Toronto in a recent article would feature his photographs.

The article says in part, “On April 14th the famed Stephen Bulger Gallery will be launching the Canadian book Karl Spiess 1891-1945: A Saxon Light Artist and His Photographs by Dietmar Riemann and published by Carl Spiess. The original German book was released in Germany last year dedicated to ‘the women and men who lost their lives without legal advice in Soviet-Russian internment camps in the east of Germany.’”

The book and the Gallery have a selection of prints from period glass plate negatives taken by Karl Spiess about 80-90 years ago. The Karl Spiess book site linked above states in part, “The last works of German Photographer Karl Spiess were to be disposed of in a dump in East Germany.

“220 of his glass negatives were saved by photographers Dietmar and Marga Riemann. The negatives demonstrate his skill as a photographer and capture a moment of time long forgotten.

“There is now a complete book outlining his life as a photographer and citizen of Germany in the 1920s to 1945. We look forward to eventually sharing the negatives with a Canadian archive that will continue to preserve and contextualize these important images.”

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The earliest days of American photography

B&O Locomotive near Oakland MD

Toronto. Thanks to my good friend and co-founder of the PHSC, John Linsky, for emailing me about this NY Times article on the Getty exhibition of early American photography by Rena Silverman. I did a post about the Getty exhibition earlier but the NY Times puts a different spin on things – Rena begins with this paragraph, “The most forged documents in financial history were the work of ordinary rascals who needed little skill to make money. All they needed was a camera.

She goes on to review both forgeries and photography’s early days. She includes photos from the Getty exhibition too (like the Baltimore & Ohio railway locomotive above left taken around 1860 near Oakland Maryland).

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The photograph that changed modern portraiture

Toronto. Philippe Halsman and Salvatore Dali were friends. One was a famous portrait photographer; the other a modern artist famous for his many weird and surreal paintings. In fact as a youth I bought a book on Dali and his surrealist paintings – those with melting clocks, long limbed people and crutches.

After the war (in 1949) Dali created a painting based on the mythological Leda and the Swan, but with everything floating. He called it Leda Atomica. Halsman, worked to create a similar  portrait of Dali called Dali Atomica (see at left). Years later his daughter who helped make the portrait as a child narrated a short video here on how it was accomplished.

My thanks to George Dunbar who found the August 9, 1948 LIFE  magazine article on Halsman’s portrait of his friend Salvatore Dali, Dali Atomica. 

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The Knowing Eye: Photographs & Photobooks

Lancaster Cotton Mill c 1908
Lewis W Hine
Swann Sale 2474 Lot 46

Toronto. Daile Kaplan at Swann Auction Galleries in the Big Apple sent me an email a few days back announcing their latest auction, Sale 2474, called, The Knowing Eye: Photographs & Photobooks. The auction begins at 1:30pm on April 19th with previews on the 14th, 16th to 18th and the morning of the auction for a couple of hours from 10 to noon.

If you are in NYC next month, arrange your time to be at the auction and pick up some famous photographs and books for your collection – or to display in your living room! Illustrated here is a Lewis W Hine photograph of a child working in the Lancaster Cotton Mill of New England around 1908. The print was made about 1940 long after such dark practices were banned in America.

You can bid in person, online, or by telephone.

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a buggie photograph

Cheap illumination before LEDs – 1948 LIFE article.

Toronto. Did you ever watch fireflies up at the cottage or in a small town or village at dusk? These little bugs give off a tiny bit of illumination to attract others (mates or food). On Aug 16, 1948, LIFE magazine published an article on an American scientist, Dr Ross Hutchins, who taped a dozen fireflies to the inner rim of an open hole in a board using their light to capture the image of a tiny statuette.

Thanks to Goldie of the Urban Toronto website for suggesting the 1948 LIFE article on using fireflies to illuminate closeups. Hardly practical – exposure took an hour at f/2.5 using film and lenses common about seven decades ago!



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CanAm Photo Expo in Niagara Falls ON

Toronto. The CanAm Photo Expo takes place the end of next month in Niagara Falls Ontario on April 27 through 29.

Click on the icon at left to see an example of an animal photo (leopard in a tree) courtesy of Graham Hobart. You have until April 6, 2018 to submit  your digital image for the competition.

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Deep sea photographs and Home children

Toronto. PHSC Meeting, Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 7:00 pm
In the BURGUNDY ROOM of the Memorial Hall

Deep Sea Photography – Meaghan Ogilvie
British Home Children – Sandra Joyce
Our Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be followed by two interesting speakers. Meaghan Ogilvie is an award winning underwater photographer who will speak about the challenges of the deep. Sandra Joyce will speak about the British Home Children and the effect this scheme had on the 100,000 or so children sent here to be farm workers or domestics.

Meaghan Ogilvie (left) and Sandra Joyce

The public is always welcome. Go to our Programs page for directions. Continue reading

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We are moving (sort of)

Enter and go right
my friend …

Toronto. We have held our monthly Toronto meetings in the Gold room at Memorial Hall for many years. As of the next meeting (April 18, 2018) we will be using half of the Burgundy Room instead. Same place as always, but turn right, not left to enter our new facility (we actually used the Burgundy room many years ago).

Join us in the Burgundy room, North York Memorial Hall every third Wednesday except in July and August when we take a summer break. Note that any off-site meetings or tours will be posted on our web site. Everyone is welcome.

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