#28 – A Corner Gas Rerun

Toronto. Amazing! Our twenty-eighth  executive meeting via ZOOM was the first  Wednesday evening in July – the 6th. And as the song says, “… nothin’ much going’ on …”. Of course behind the scenes there is a lot going on. Next meeting is September 7, 2022 and most likely via ZOOM too unless otherwise noted.

Our TRUNK SALE is today, JULY 16th. The fall fair is at the Trident centre on October 1st this year.  Our speaker program will start up again in September as will our executive meetings and newsletters.

Have a great summer everyone and lets hope the seventh wave of COVID-19 and the restrictions it may bring are very modest at best.

Clint and a small group meet for the July Executive meeting – next meeting will be September 7, 2022

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better than a clockwork camera

ad for an electrically driven 8mm amateur movie camera

Toronto. In May of 1939, Popular Mechanics did an article on a nameless camera that used an electric motor rather than the usual spring wound affair. Its ‘fresh egg’ was allowing a full 25 foot spool of film to be exposed in a single run and still have power left over.

The makers must have felt that frequent winding to expose even 25 feet of film in short spurts limited an amateur’s creativity. To compete on price, the rest of the camera was rather basic – a fixed f/2.5 lens, single 16 frame per second shutter, etc.

I was unable to track down the maker – or country of manufacture. My thanks to good friend, George Dunbar for suggesting this article on the burgeoning amateur movie business in early 1939. This along with many other great ideas suddenly stopped when WW2 began that fall.

The title of this post is a riff on the futuristic book (1962) and film (1971), “A Clockwork Orange“.



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Kamloops in the news

Kamloops Residential School? © Amber Bracken, Kanada, for the New York Times

Toronto. Over the past few years we have seen and heard about the horrific discoveries that began at the  the Kamloops Residential School. These shocking stories culminated in a visit by Indigenous Canadian delegates to the Vatican, an apology by the Pope, and a visit here by the Pope.

Each year, there is a World Press Photo series and this year it includes one showing the graves unearthed at the Kamloops Residential School as photographed by Amber Bracken of Edmonton and published in the prestigious newspaper, The New York Times. This entry is accompanied by the following caption and story:

“Caption:  Red dresses hung on crosses along a roadside commemorate children who died at the Kamloops Indian Residential School, an institution created to assimilate Indigenous children, following the detection of as many as 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia.

“Story: The hanging of red dresses as a visual response to the disproportionate violence faced by women with an Indigenous heritage began in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2011; orange shirts are also used, specifically to acknowledge suffering caused to children by the residential school system in Canada.

“Residential schools began operating in the 19th century as part of a policy of assimilating people from various Indigenous communities into Western, and predominantly Christian culture.

“Students were removed from their homes and parents – frequently by force – and often forbidden to communicate in their own languages. Their hair was cut short, and they had to wear uniforms, rather than traditional clothing, were given Euro?Christian names in place of their own, and were subject to physical and sometimes sexual abuse.

“Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin claimed Canada used the institutions to commit cultural genocide.”

Our thanks to Westlicht in Vienna, Austria for emailing the World Press Photo  notice to the PHSC.

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liquid silver

Recovering silver from exhausted photo baths

Toronto. In the days of films and glass plates, the job of a developer solution was to  convert the silver halides in the emulsion to metallic silver in proportion to the light intensity hitting the molecules. The process had to be slightly alkaline to work, hence an acid stop bath to ‘stop’ development. The fixer liquid then removed the remaining silver halides to render the emulsion insensitive to light. A final wash would get rid of any residue.

Some silver or silver halides likely contaminated the first two baths, but an exhausted third bath (fixer) was saturated with silver halides. When the cost of extracting silver from exhausted photo chemistry was less than the value of the recovered silver, people searched for exhausted liquids to buy and refine.

I remember a friend some 60 years ago telling me about how old fixer baths were laced with silver halides and could be sold for recovery of the silver – I never followed up on the idea. At the time, it was acknowledged that the photography industry was the major user of metallic silver by far.

In this day, we all are aware of “recycling” and “Blue Bins” – aggregated contents are separated (paper, plastic, aluminum, etc.) and sold to companies that extract and reuse the  basic material.

This old ad from an 1891/2 issue of the “St. Louis and Canadian Photographer” magazine suggests one enterprising company who was on the search for old photo chemistry baths. Thanks to my good friend, George Dunbar, for sharing this quaint ad from over a century ago.

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a modest merger

The formation of Zeiss-Ikon in 1926 from DB Tubbs’ book on Zeiss Ikon cameras up to 1939 published by HOVE in 1977

Toronto. In 1729, an anonymous article called, “A Modest Proposal” was written by Jonathan Swift, known for his satirical tales like, “Gulliver’s Travels“. The article was also intended to be a satirical piece but was taken as very serious when released.

In the early 1920s, German inflation was astronomical. Stabilization set in in late 1923 following dire action by the government. At the time, the photographic industry was rampant with numerous small companies fighting for the market. Many of those companies merged a number of times before the mighty Carl Zeiss organization (most German cameras used Zeiss lenses) stepped in and in 1926 formed Zeiss-Ikon based in Dresden. The first task facing Zeiss-Ikon was to rationalize the industry and whittle down its many competing camera models.

Prior to the weighty tomb, “Zeiss and Photography” published in 2015 by Friesens of Manitoba, and written by an American, Larry Gubas, D. B Tubbs of Great Britain wrote a book called, “Zeiss Ikon Cameras 1926~1939” published in 1977 by Hove Camera Foto Books of East Sussex in the UK.

The Tubbs book included the above chart showing the mergers that culminated in the formation of Zeiss-Ikon. After WW2, three camera manufacturers emerged: Leitz of Wetzlar, Rollei of Braunschweig, … and Zeiss-Ikon which had been relocated to Stuttgart as Dresden had been flattened during WW2.

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some say film …

prints from film negatives featured in PhotoEd magazine

Toronto. … others say analog (or analogue). But whatever you call the old emulsion and liquid chemistry-based photography, the prints have a certain je ne sais quoi charm and look about them.

Our favourite editor, Rita Godlevskis, at PhotoEd sent me a note recently discussing her plans for this excellent magazine  (founded and created by Felix Russo – we advertise in the magazine, too).

Browse Rita’s note as sent by MailChimp (another platform we use – for our newsletter and journal in this case) or visit the PhotoEd website to see back issues and what an amazingly well-crafted magazine Rita creates.

When all is said and done, Canadian artists and educators are blessed that  PhotoEd and its companion book, “Guide to Photography” are still in production. The magazine is a venue for photographers to show their talents while  educators get a reasonably priced magazine and an accurate inexpensive guide for their students.

You can visit our auctions, fairs, and image shows where you will see many examples of film/glass-plate etc. based photos that you can add to your own collection. The next PHSC outing is our fall Photographica-fair in Trident Hall this October 1st. We will be posting more details here as we near the fair date.

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before we had Xerox …

August, 1939 article showing a ‘portable’ photo copier solution

Toronto. Before we had the modern Xerox copiers,  photography helped businesses make decent copies, A brief article in the August, 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics describes a special camera that was considered ‘portable’ and printed directly to special paper.

A mirror on the lens allows the original paper to lie flat horizontally and the copy printed vertically on the special paper.

For amateurs, photography could also be used to make copies on regular photo paper using various devices like closeup lenses, ‘spider legs’, frames, extension tubes, bellows, copy stands, etc.

Today, digital cameras and smart phones make copies even easier. As well, many people have scanners – either as stand-a-lone machines or built in to a printer. Over a half century ago, small organizations or those with simple needs could use a gestetner stencil or a spirit duplicator like my school used when I was very young.

Our thanks goes out to my good friend and fellow photo enthusiast, George Dunbar, for graciously sharing his findings with us (I told my wife as I lugged her rather heavy old ‘portable’ TV set around, “just stick a handle on anything and it becomes a portable …”).

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rolling with the punches

ad for the 1939 Rolleiflex TLR camera

Toronto. This ad appeared in the September, 1939 issue of Popular Mechanics. At the time, Burleigh Brooks was the American importer of various German cameras including the Rollei. This ad was likely submitted about 3 months earlier in June of 1939. But talk about poor timing! In September, 1939 WW2 broke out in Europe. Shortly afterwards German exports of cameras and other photographic materials ceased until after the war.

At the time, and post WW2, Rolleiflex was the twin-lens reflex (TLR) camera to beat. It was a marvellous instrument – the epitome of TLR design. This ad implies once again that its the camera (a nearly life size view of the scene before you shoot) not just the photographer that creates a prize winning shot.

My thanks to my good friend and fellow PHSC member, George Dunbar, for sharing this rather badly timed advertisement for one of the better German made cameras.



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a fair to remember

at the 2009 Spring Fair

Toronto. The wait is over! After the delays prompted by COVID-19 and its regulations, we are holding our in person, in the hall Photographica-fair on October 1st (SATURDAY) at the Trident Hall (AKA the Pirogi Palace).

Come on over to Evans and Islington and share the camaraderie and thrill of finding just the right item for your user kit or collection! The photo used here was taken by the late Bob Lansdale at the spring 2009 fair up at the soccer centre. It shows a magnificent layout by the late John Kantymir.’

I have the date and location shown in the righthand side bar. As we near the actual date, I will be adding a post dedicated to this fair – our first live fair at the Trident Hall since 2019. Don’t miss it!

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lens board connects to the lens mount

a wooden lens board and lens with a lens mount squeezed in-between the two

Toronto. For most of the 1800s and early 1900s, cameras had a focussing means situated between the lens board and the media making the media-to-lens distance relatively unimportant. However; when camera bodies became rigid and the focussing means moved to the front of the lens board, the distance between the media and the lens mount (flange) became critical if a lens was to focus at infinity.

If that distance was wrong for a given lens, it could not focus at infinity on that particular camera. In the early days of minicams such as the Leica, lenses were fixed and a lens could be factory  calibrated to suit a given body. Once interchangeable lenses were offered, the media to lens mount distance became critical. Briefly Leitz made lenses to suit a given camera and only offered the lens choices during manufacture.

A rapid change to a standard media-lens mount distance (29.9mm for Leica) resolved this problem and afterwards any lens would fit any Leica camera that had the standard distance. Thoughtfully, when the M-mount cameras went on sale, they had a media to lens mount distance of 28.9mm allowing a 1mm ring to be used between screw mount lenses and bayonet mount camera bodies (M-series).

Note. the title of this post is a riff on the kids’ song, “The Skelton Dance” which itself was a simplified version of “Dem Bones” which I often heard as a child.

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a wonderful view

View camera with Thornton- Pickard shutter and brass lens

Toronto. Throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s, the view camera was a popular camera design. Everyone knew a wooden box and bellows on a tripod meant a photographer was at work!

The view camera was rather simple in concept. A wooden box separated the sensitive media from the lens focussing a subject sharply at ‘infinity’ (usually much closer in reality, depending on the lens and aperture chosen).

A means of focussing even closer was added between lens and media. Some times a second wooden box was used, or quite often a bellows (often tapered to fit the media box at one end and the lens board at the other). Ground glass substituted in the focal plane for the media served to set the point of sharpest focus and choose how the subject would be framed on the media.

This kind of camera worked very well but took time for set up, framing, focussing and capturing the image (capturing itself usually took a few seconds even in bright sunlight). And until dry plates became common sometime after the 1870s the media had to be prepared and developed on location.

By the way, the camera shown here was a lot in our spring estate auction. Visit our Photographica-fair this fall and you may find one for your collection too!

Note. The title of this post is a play on Noel Coward’s delightful 1928 song called, “A Room With a View“.


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