those were the days, my friend …

Interior of Peake & Whittingham Studio c 1922-1941

Toronto. we thought they would never end … The song brings back memories … The smell of developer, of short stop, of fixer. Days when every shot counted. Huge studio cameras produced material for print advertisements in newspapers and magazines of the day. No digital technology. Material was prepared days to months in advance. The press was King. Presidents and Prime Ministers were believable –  aww those were the days!

This is a public domain print made from a modern copy negative. Print and negative reside in the City of Toronto Archives. The original was shot in the period 1922 – 1941 which was arrived at as follows: The print is an interior shot at the Peake & Whittingham studio at 159 Elm Street. Bill Whittingham (the headless cameraman) and two assistants, one his son Ted at left, are shooting an advertising campaign  for Squibb Vitamin Products. Peake & Whittingham moved their studio to Elm street in 1922 and Bill died in 1941.

No indication of who took this photograph but such shots of people at work are far less common than portraits or landscapes. My thanks to Goldie, a frequent contributor to the website urbanTO and a member of the PHSC. Goldie is a retired industrial photographer.

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Irving Pobborasvsky

The late Irving Pobborasvsky in late 1970s by Walter Johnson

Toronto. We were recently advised by the Daguerreian Society that the life of the late Irving Pobborasvsky was celebrated on Sunday, July 29th, 2018. The notice said in part, “As many of you may be aware Irving Pobboravsky passed away last month after a short illness.

“On July 29th his family and friends will be celebrating his life in Rochester.  Irving was one of the first to make daguerreotypes in the early 1970s and was thrilled to share his knowledge over the last nearly 50 years with anyone who asked.

“Every contemporary daguerreotypists owes a debt of gratitude to Irv, many made daguerreotypes when they heard the news of his passing. Many more will be paying him homage by making daguerreotypes today, July 29th.”

Many of our members are also members of the Daguerreian Society. Dr Mike Robinson of this city was once president of both the PHSC and later the Daguerreotype Society. Robinson is also a modern day Daguerreian photographer and a world acknowledged expert on the medium first announced in January 1839.

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the great depression and photography

Dorthea Lange’s 1936 photo of 32 year old Florence Thompson,  a migrant American mother

Toronto. As we enter into a tariff war once again, there is growing concern we will plunge into another massive depression. It is worth thinking about the last great depression world wide (the dirty 30s), culminating in the second world war.

Some American photographers were commissioned by their government (FSA) to record the sad impact the depression had forcing many families to migrate west in what ever way possible.

The Guardian in the UK commemorates these photographers with its column entitled “A Vision Shared: the photographers who captured the Great Depression“. The photo at left is an outtake of Dorthea Lange‘s definitive photo taken at the same time in Nipomo, California. The column’s title and content is based on the 40th anniversary reissue of Hank O’Neal’s 1976 book of the same name.


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seeing double

NSA 2018 convention in Cleveland OH

Toronto. Our president Clint visited the states recently and dropped in at the NSA’s 2018 convention on Stereo photography, the thrilling cards that entertained Victorians decades before TV. The National Stereoscopic Association was an exchange member of ours for a couple of decades. Their magazine, Stereo World, is still read by many of our members.

MiPHS president Cindy Motzenbecker was there too and kindly sent me some photos for publication. MiPHS is a long time and current exchange member too. You can see the images of the Stereo fair that I received from Cindy by clicking on the link below named Continue reading–>. Continue reading

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scaling to new heights …

Wm James Sr
at Varsity Stadium
James fell off the fence and broke his leg. The camera is a Graflex.

Toronto. About 1919 William James Sr tried to scale the fence at Varsitry Stadium (U of T stadium fronting on Bloor Street). In hand was his trusty Graflex camera. The intent to catch a sports event ended in disaster when James fell off the fence breaking his leg – no mention of the camera’s fate!

This photograph is in the City of Toronto Archives in the James family fonds (#1244) as item 3553. The James family members were well known in the day as some of the prominent professional Toronto photographers. In fact, William James Sr was considered to be Canada’s first photojournalist.

Summer Leigh, who spoke to us back in January, 2015, has this to say of William James Sr and fond 1244 at the city archives. Summer likes to use the old images and carefully overlays them with modern colour versions taken at the same place and with the same perspective.

A special thank you to Goldie, a member of the Urban Toronto  website for emailing me with this arresting image of the senior member of the James Family!

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Toronto Lithographing Co Photography Dept 1898


Photography Department, 1898
Toronto Lithogaphing Co.

Toronto. We sometimes forget that our city once was the engine of industrial Canada. In 1898, the massive Toronto Lithographing Company, founded two decades earlier, commissioned  photographer A A Gray to record the interior facilities at the north-west corner of King and Bathurst.

Here you see the huge camera housed in the Photography Department. The photo is held as Fonds 1137, item 0002 by the Toronto Archives. The brief history and all 14 interior shots are noted by Toronto’s OCAD University downtown (the school of the colourful stilts you see on TV’s Kim’s Convenience program).

Thanks to PHSC member George Dunbar for sourcing a photo taken in this once famous business. Like most businesses of yesteryear, the Toronto Lithographing Company is now lost in History. Continue reading

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Ryerson’s Library and Archives collection

Kodak Roll film holder
Patent 22351 paper

Toronto. When you decide to do research on our rich photographic history, remember the resources we have in our university archives. A great example is the fabulous collection housed and inventoried by Ryerson.

Member George Dunbar sent an email recently to a number of us asking, “Is everyone aware of the excellent photography archive at Ryerson University? It’s here, at the University’s Archives and Special Collections site.”

Ryerson was the recipient of most of Kodak Canada’s records when it was seriously impacted by the digital wave that almost destroyed the still film industry from maker to consumer. The Kodak papers have been complimented by many other artifacts including donations by PHSC members Lorne Shields and Nick Graver. Well worth a look!

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Movies with a Fran 8K

Fran 8K Camcorder

Toronto. Ever hear of a Fran 8K camcorder? I didn’t either until an email hit my desk last Saturday morning. The resolution is huge (47.7 MP at 24 fps)  and the concept timely. The camera, available for order late this fall, uses Canon lenses and open source C++ apps to customize operation.

The programs and LUTs (Look Up Table) colour files are stored on a removable SD card. You do have a LUT controlling any screen – your computer has one – to set the correct colour balance etc.  A screen management tool for professionals can change the LUT file to correct for any colour drift so your photographic images remain accurate to your colour decisions. And so what you see is what you print.

The Fran 8K has a press release and website with the writing and images from Barcelona, Spain. The English used is not quite grammatically correct, but easily read and understood (unlike my very rough grasp of Spanish). Check out the website if you do any pro video work!

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Charlie and the Essanay movie studio in Chicago.

Charlie Chaplin post card Nr 1 – Essanay studio, Chicago, Illinois

Toronto. The year was 1915. A young actor called Charlie Chaplin spend a few months in the windy city. While there, he recorded a silent movie at the famous Chicago studio named Essanay for its two founders. Thanks to the Made in Chicago Museum, we learn of a part of Chaplin’s story often overlooked by his biographers.

You might ask, “How did I learn about this interesting bit of photographic trivia”? In a word: Dunbar. Yep, my good friend George Dunbar discovered this interesting story on the internet and sent me an email!

Food for thought: Chicago is about the same population as Toronto. We have museums like the famous ROM. Do we have enough things that were made here for a Made inToronto Museum?? Just asking …

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shooting movies in the 1920s

Roy Tash and Friend
Late 1920s – William James
City of Toronto Archives

Toronto. I visited my youngest grandson the other day. The eleven year old showed me his new iPad, bought with his own hard earned money. The past few weeks he has been busy creating animations. He has his own YouTube channel for his stop motion videos. The stop motion work began a few months before he bought his new iPad. He uses a cheap ($6.99CDN, $4.99USD) program called Rough Animator which has the necessary tools to create animated videos.  For a few years now he has created movies and movie trailers on his iPod Touch using iMovie.

Imagine how he would have done such work nearly a century ago using an expensive mechanical camera and reels of film! Those reels had to be developed and then edited to combine short bits into a cohesive movie. Hardly a job for an amateur let alone a child … The time delay between shooting and editing would turn off all but serious professionals.

In the 1920s, Roy Tash made his name creating such shorts with a heavy electrical-mechanical camera, reels of film, and a heavy old editing machine. This photograph taken by William James in the late 1920s is in the City of Toronto Archives as fonds 1244, item 8192. It shows Roy Tash proudly standing next to his massive tripod mounted movie camera.

Thanks to Goldie who emailed me about this image of Tash. He also posted it a few years ago (March 19, 2010) on the UrbanToronto website

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