Pictures never lie… Well, hardly ever!

My Grandfather c1939 with a photographer’s artistic skill…

Toronto. When I was a kid the common expression was “a camera doesn’t lie”. No longer. In today’s world our neighbours have elected a president whose first reaction to anything he feels is derogatory or against his rather ill-informed opinion is to claim it is FAKE NEWS.

As I aged, I realized that photographic images from the very beginning could be manipulated. I even helped a friend. She had no print showing her parents together – not a single print. I added her  father to a print of her mother and rephotographed the result making a print of her parents together, managing to get the height and shadows correct as well.

Years ago, I innocently mentioned to my dad that my grandfather must have had a suit since he wore one in the big print that hung in my bedroom. My dad thought I was hilarious! The portrait of my grandparents was taken by a street photographer who coloured the print and threw in a suit for my grandfather complete with a gold chain. In the black and white negative snapped by this photographer, my grandfather wore his usual overalls! No suit, no watch chain, no tie, no shirt collar… even the tree full of apple blossoms belonged next door in a vacant lot.

All this came to mind when my friend George Dunbar sent me a link to a BBC article called “The Hidden Signs that can Reveal a Fake Photo“. The article, by Ms Tiffanie Wen appeared in the BBC’s 30 June 2017 post. It is well worth the read. With digital cameras and software like Photoshop, it is even easier to fake a photograph. No darkroom skill needed. Such an image can be used as misdirection, deception, to damage a person’s reputation, a malicious effort at humour, etc.

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Happy Birthday, Canada!

Our first Prime Minister – Sir John A MacDonald – albumen print of a Notman photograph

Toronto. Member Harold Staats felt we should honour Canada Day this year with a portrait of Sir John A MacDonald, our first Prime Minister in 1867. This portrait was taken by our most famous photographic studio, Willam Notman. Notman began in Montreal and set up branches in Eastern Canada and the United States.

Besides Harold’s image (thanks Harold),  we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary a couple of weeks ago with a special Toronto meeting of the PHSC.

In addition to the speakers, we had our photographs taken in both flat and 3D versions.

Sonja Pushchak baked a special cake and other treats for all attendees and speakers to enjoy.

Our five speakers gave a brief overview of various aspects of photography from the mid 1800s, when Canada was created, to the present day:

Yvette Bessels spoke about modern wet-plate photography (originally in vogue in the mid 1800s), Jeff  Ward spoke on Maritimes photographers 1839-1939, Laura Jones reminisced about her Baldwin Street gallery, the first photographic gallery, Vincenzo Pietropaolo spoke of his latest book “Ritual” and the challenges in publishing today, while Nick Chomps wrapped up the talks with a chilling look at roof topping and how it has helped him in modern photography.

Bob Lansdale took this picture of some attendees

And Bob Wilson took this anaglyph stereo picture of some of the attendees

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A Governor General Takes a Shot

Earl of Bessborough and W D Ross, photo by Alexandra Studio, Toronto from the City of Toronto Archives

Toronto. After George Dunbar sent me the LIFE photo of Lord Halifax which I posted yesterday, journal editor Bob Lansdale shot a note across suggesting a Canadian theme would be more appropriate given the coming celebration of our 150th anniversary. And what could be more appropriate than this shot taken c1933 in Toronto (?) by the Alexandra Studio? The photograph is in the City of Toronto Archives fonds from Alexandra Studio – home of the famous Toronto photographers, the Turofsky brothers.

The scene features two dignitaries in bowler hats. On the left with the camera cable release, is the Earl of Bessborough –  Canada’s governor general 1931-1935. The Earl is famous for participating in the first trans-Canada telephone system in 1932 and in the creation of the CBC. I remember as a kid my dad paid a radio licence for each radio in the house with the funds going to the CBC. We had a big Stromberg Carlson radio made in late 1939 especially for Toronto’s 25 cycle ac power (I still have it today).

And the gentleman on the right? Well, it is Sir William David Ross, a Scottish philosopher best known for his 1930 book on ethics “The Right and the Good“.  I never did find out what he was doing in our fair city or why he was photographed with the kibitzing Earl of Bessborough and a cluster of photographers.

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An amateur assistant indeed

Lord Halifax assists at the May 1945 San Francisco conference – LIFE May 27 1946

Toronto. George Dunbar sent me this delightful picture from the May 27, 1946 edition of LIFE Magazine (page 38). The photograph shows Lord Halifax (Edward Wood), ambassador to the USA pressed into service as an assistant to a photographer capturing the San Francisco conference in May 1945 for posterity. This is the conference that formed the United Nations.

The camera man’s very act of turning to the person beside him and pressing him into service as a holder of his flash made this a picture for posterity, along with the event he was so busy capturing!

The unknown picture snapper looks like he is using a Speed Graphic! The photo is one of a small group that celebrated the very popular Lord Halifax as he completed his assignment as abassador to the USA.


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Diane Arbus works join the AGO Collection

5th Avenue Lady by Diane Arbus

Toronto. When I moved back home to Toronto in the late 1970s, I had an M4 and was very interested in photography. The main Etobicoke Library at Richview had a wonderful collection of coffee table sized photography books which I borrowed to learn about the masters of the art in the period from early to late 1900s.

One person was Diane Arbus of New York City. She had died in 1971, a few years before I discovered her intriguing photographs of the strange denizens of NYC. I recently read a blog from AGO and was  delighted to learn the Gallery had acquired 522 of the Arbus photographs from the estate of the late photographer.

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Modern Wet-Plate Photography

Flight of the Bumblebees – Modern wet-plate photo by Yvette Bessels

Toronto. On June 23 I posted a note about the site Modern Day Antique mentioning that when the PHSC began in the mid 1970s, antique technologies were the really old technologies. At our June Toronto meeting we celebrated Canada’s 150th anniversary a bit early with five speakers covering the 150 year era of photography from wet-plates to roof toppers.

The first speaker was Yvette Bessels who covered modern day wet-plate photography. A photographer in her own right, Yvette has worked with modern day wet-plate media for a few years now. Her web site includes instructions and a very candid look at the pit falls that can occur to a beginner – even during the seemingly simple task of glass cutting. She also offers the beginning wet-plate photographer a reading list and an alternate web site – Collodion Bastards: Wet Plate Work of Questionable Parentage.

If you have the urge to try your hand at the wet-plate photography of a century and a half ago (when Canada was formed, in 1867) then take a look at Yvette’s site and that of Gerald Figal who runs the Collodion Bastards site.

As a side note, our logo was initiated by the late Everette Roseborough for the Photographic Canadiana journal. It is a copy of a steel plate engraving of a wet-plate photographer in the 1850s with a 100 pound back pack containing his camera, lens, tripod, darkroom tent, chemicals, and paraphernalia needed to make and develop his glass plates on site.

Our speakers on wet-plate have included Blake Chorley “Blake Chorley visits the Rockies“, The Tintype Studio, Amanda Rataj “Albumen Printing“, Maayan Kasimov and Rob Norton “Ambrotypes – History and Modern Production“, and Mark Osterman & France Scully Osterman “Reviving a Lost Art – The Collodion Journal” to mention a few.

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McKeown’s Camera Guide (online version) is progressing!

MckCamera-smToronto. Jim McKeown, co-author of McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, emailed me Sunday (yesterday) that the massive online update to his reference guide for camera collectors will  soon be ready for testing. The new title is “McKeown’s Camera Encyclopedia and Price Guide”, reflecting the detailed information included of camera makers, addresses, models, and dates.

Jim said in his email, “The first test version of the web edition should be ready within a few weeks; we are waiting for the webmaster’s final touches.  We will send out an official announcement to all who have responded to our web questionnaire. We encourage your members [PHSC] to sign in, as that is the only way we will make announcements and accept subscriptions.” The initial online test version will be all manufacturers with names that begin with A. Both text and images will be tested.

Jim notes that once the bugs have been shaken out of the full online version (i.e. feedback of errors and inaccuracies), the hard copy will go to press. On March 15th last year, I mentioned this long awaited update is underway with the editors targeting release some time late in 2016. Used/new copies of the single volume 2004 edition (for 2005-6) are presently offered on Amazon at sometimes eye-popping prices. The arrival of the newest four volume edition sounds like a tasty Christmas present for collectors.

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New Archive of Globe and Mail Photos

People board buses on Yonge above Eglinton. in this John Boyd photo

Toronto. Many well known photographers worked for and sold photographs to the Globe over the years. Now with the help of the folks from the Archive of Modern Conflict (AMC), a selection of the images will be available at this link for subscribers. The icon at left is by John Boyd. [please see correction below]

The Globe article begins, “As part of the Globe’s Canada 150 celebration, (the Globe hits 173 this year), we’ve pulled an eclectic selection of photos that range from a 1901 picture of the Forester’s Arch being erected on Bay and Richmond streets for a royal visit to a Canadian astronomical discovery in the late 1990s.

“You can search the archive by date or Globe photographer, and there are special collections that cover different aspects of Canadian life. A unique feature of the archive is that it shows both the front and back of the photos, providing an unedited look at the newspaper’s graphics process.”

A big thank you to member and past Photographic Canadiana journal editor, Doug Gilbertson, for suggesting this link. While I do read the Globe daily, for some reason I missed this important article. Well done, Doug! Continue reading

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New lensless technology

Caltech’s experiment in imaging using an optical phased array instead of bulky glass lenses

Toronto.  Even before 1839, optical houses created various lenses from glass for the apparatus of the day. After 1839, lens design and quality became the defining factor of camera quality.

Most optical institutes such as Zeiss provided lenses to a multitude of makers. Some institutes however, offered only a few lens designs of reputedly superior quality. For example, Leitz created for its Leica what they claimed were high quality lenses. When the bayonet model Leicas were introduced after the second war, lenses were named for their widest aperture. A summicron was f/2 for example, and came in various focal lengths. In later years Leitz added -M for lenses designed for their bayonet cameras and Apo- for lenses that brought three primary colours into a flat image plane. Continue reading

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Modern Day Antique(s)

Portrait from Modern Day Antique in Ohio

Toronto. In this age of digital photography we tend to think of antique technology as using film processes, especially in black and white that dates back to the 1880s and Kodak. When we first began, antique technology was really old processes – daguerreotypes, calotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, glass wet plates, glass dry plates, etc . A couple of members (now deceased) used to offer portraits using old techniques, simulated or real. Even today, our past president, Dr Mike Robinson, will do you a likeness in a modern-day daguerreotype, right in his studio in Toronto. Others locally will make you a tintype portrait.

Last Wednesday evening, we had a great meeting celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary (arriving less that a couple of weeks from now). Five speakers did a brief review of photography from the old days of wet plate up to modern day roof topping with a DSLR and pure nerve. One of the audience members was Werner Drechsel. Werner served on the executive some years back before work demanded his full attention again.

The following day, Thursday,  Werner suggested this web site to me: Modern Day Antique.

Michael Rhodes in Medina Ohio runs this site plus a traditional portrait/wedding studio. At Modern Day Antique he offers classes, modern replicas of union cases,  and old fashioned portraits…

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