a dirty dozen!

Toronto. We held our 12th ZOOM exec meeting Wednesday evening (its feeling like normal now). Again, Celio deserves a huge thank you for arranging it in spite of his busy teaching schedule at post secondary institutes.

Well, Toronto is still in total lockdown but daily new COVID-19 cases are falling overall. ALL live events are still cancelled. Our monthly meeting venue (North York Memorial Hall) remains closed (even to our archivist). We now use ZOOM and Eventbrite for Toronto meetings and may continue using them combined with in-person sessions at Memorial Hall when it opens again given the stellar success of video registration  and conferencing.

The March issue of our newsletter, ‘PHSC News’,  goes out a week Friday to nearly 1,900  addresses. Sign up at news@phsc.ca for your free pdf copy. Members also get specials plus the journal via pdf. (contact me if you are a member and HAVE NOT seen the pdfs. Some members have unsubscribed to MailChimp; some emails are invalid; and others have no email on file with the society or with MailChimp). Any questions? Just drop me a note at info@phsc.ca.

Our twelfth executive meeting via ZOOM

Coordinator Celio Barreto reported the March meeting via ZOOM, “The Great Bear Rain Forest”, by Dr. Ron Goodlin. Film Screening + Q&A already exceeds 50 seats across North America. Be sure to visit us on Eventbrite and sign up today!

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Glencoe, Glencoe, What Art Thou Glencoe?

camera is badged Glencoe Empire State but is the maker CanCamCo or ROC?

Toronto. With apologies to Bill Shakespeare. When Brian Hudson enquired about his Canadian Camera (& Optical) Company camera, he set off quite a storm which hasn’t settled yet. I had an Empire State camera a few years ago. I added a lens and UNICUM shutter to the empty lens board. But it was definitely a Rochester Optical Company camera according to the plaque on its front.

The image at left is courtesy of the piercevaubel web site. It is similar to the one I had – both are full plate cameras. 

The latest email on Brian’s query came from Dr Irwin Reichstein of Ottawa just a week ago. Irwin writes, “I came across this site which is probably known to you which has many photo catalogues available.  http://www.piercevaubel.com/cam/catalogsall.htm

I looked through catalogues that seemed relevant but the Glencoe was not mentioned in the years I thought relevant.   In the camera section, however, the Glencoe is mentioned.


However, it is interesting that in his write-up at the bottom he writes that the years manufactured is 1910.

     This camera is identical to the Rochester Optical Co. Empire State Variation 2., except that the device to make the bed rigid is a thumbscrew, whereas Rochester Optical was using their lever hook for quicker set up and take down.  Some of the hardware is rather distinctive and must have come from Rochester Optical, e.g., the fancy swing hinge, and the triangular ground glass clips.  For this reason, it is very likely that the Canadian Camera & Optical Co. got these cameras already constructed from the Rochester Optical Co., either by contracting with Rochester Optical to purchase cameras for resale, or by buying Rochester Optical’s old stock that didn’t have the lever hook device.

I had come across items about the company dated 1910 and it seems that the company was revived around 1910.  It may be that at this stage they were just importing as opposed to the 1900 time frame when they actually manufactured them.  So is the period of interest still just the early period or should we be looking at the 1910 period as well.

If have more information whether CanCamCo cameras were made, imported, or both by them or if you can confirm the years of operation of the company, please drop me an email at info@phsc.ca and I will pass it along to our editor, Bob Lansdale.

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holy, holy, holy

Photos by Kirk in the Bronx c1960s

Toronto. In Scotland, the word ‘Kirk’ means church. Last century in the Bronx, it meant a very talented Armenian photographer christened Kourken Hovsepian and his Studio.

At the February, 2021 meeting, we saw the finished version of “Photos by Kirk” by Jamie Day Fleck via streaming to ZOOM. This time, Jamie and a panel of three experts fielded queries afterwards. Jamie first gave us a taste of her film on Kirk when we saw a copy at our June, 2015 meeting. Tonight’s presentation was our third meeting organized on Eventbrite and hosted on ZOOM. We owe a thanks to Programme Director Celio Barreto for his co-ordinating acumen. The $9.99 General Admission screening and Panel Discussion tickets included a digital copy of the film. PHSC members were exempt from this fee, unless they wished to purchase a copy of the film.  I counted 46 attendees at one point.

The approximately 25 minute documentary consisted of interviews with family members and clients carefully interspersed with black and white photographs taken mostly by Kourken Hovsepian (Kirk). Note that ‘Kirk’ was the name he used for his studio as his Armenian name was difficult to say in English.

The documentary records some very emotional interviews. It also uses a few home movie clips – each uncorrected for the colour shifts that occurred over time. These clips added some poignancy. Kirk’s photographs recorded not only special events (candids, portraits, weddings) but the history of his neighbourhood in the Bronx (New York City). Like many studio photographers, Kirk used a very big camera in his work.  Continue reading

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we get letters

Letter to the Canadian Camera Co in Toronto

Toronto. More information on the cameras once made in Montreal and Toronto. Brian Hudson of Edmonton unleashed a tsunami of information with his question on them.

Last Saturday, Dr Irwin Reichstein in Ottawa sent an email to us. He spotted this envelope addressed to the Canadian Camera Company in Toronto. Irwin writes, ” At a stamp collecting site there are two covers (that is addressed envelopes) for the Canadian camera and optical company from Deseronto and Norwood.  It’s neat to see the Queen Victoria stamps on the letters.  Sadly there seems to be no letters inside.” The site Irwin visited is Stamp Community Family, and the link that shows the envelope (courtesy of Irwin) is here.

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shooting Arrows

AVRO Arrow drawing by unknown. Original resides in the Library and Archives Canada (LAC)

Toronto. One day as I sat on a runway at Toronto Peason, the pilot announced we could see the Avro Arrow to the side of our aircraft. Summarily scrapped by the Diefenbaker government, issues swirled around the decision – too costly; American influence; specifications insufficient; etc. etc.

Today, Lou Wise keeps the Arrow alive in memory. The Canada’s History site has a wonderful article written by Allan Britnell and posted August 13, 2015. called Shooting Arrows about the team from the AVRO film department.

This is the second post on the famous Canadian aircraft. I did one back on July 18, 2017 called A Broken Arrow and Photography. I owe both to the credit of my friend George Dunbar and his diligent search for photographic history.

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big yellow taxi

Fotomat, cars, and film

Toronto.  In the days of film, the exposed film was processed and then printed. Prints and the developed film were returned to the owner. In the US, a company called Fotomat was formed. The company’s business plan was simple: Put up tiny one person kiosks in  plaza and strip mall parking lots. Do the processing and printing elsewhere, offer film, flash bulbs and processing dirt cheap – and finished prints within a day.

The concept took off in the States, and before long thousands of kiosks covered the landscape. Internationally, growth expanded into Canada with  about 45 kiosks here in Toronto alone. The owners down south were a litigious lot. Kodak took them to court over their choice of colours and display fonts. Besides, Kodak did not care to be associated with a cheap service.

The business was a mix of company kiosks and franchises which led to more litigation – this time with the franchisees over territory.  The business continued since everyone liked the idea of dropping off exposed film and buying new when visiting a plaza, then getting prints the next day or so. The company didn’t see the storm clouds forming. The development of minilabs meant film processing and printing in one hour, not a day or so. Worse, the kiosks were too small for the minilabs. The need for the Fotomat concept died.

The company was sold off but struggling. Fotomat quietly disappeared as one hour processing took over. To add to the turmoil, one of the owners was found guilty of fraud and fled to parts unknown.

My thanks to good friend George Dunbar for sharing this ad on page 12 in the July 2, 1971 issue of LIFE when the business was going gangbusters!

The title of this post is Joni Mitchell’s epic 1969/70 hit “The Big Yellow Taxi” which has the lines ‘ they paved paradise and put up a parking lot

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on being John Malkovich

Sandro does Karsh using Malkovich as Churchill

Toronto. We can all recall famous photographs by famous photographers. A Chicago photographer (Ukrainian roots) who goes by the name Sandro, took memory a giant step forward – he photographed recreations of these famous photos with a huge twist – he used John Malkovich as the subject in each photo! He calls his portfolio an homage to photographic masters.

Take a look at his collaboration with Malkovich in homage. Brings back memories, doesn’t it?

This link was discovered and shared by my good friend and fellow PHSC member, George Dunbar, who as I have noted many times, is busy researching photgraphic history via the amazing internet. The internet brings meaning to the comic I enjoyed as a kid, “Born 30 years too soon“.

The post title is actually the title of a 1999 movie comedy featuring John Malkovich.

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in the tropics

King’s Own Tropical Camera

Toronto. In the late 1950s, we had a trio of Allis-Chalmers power generators (my Exakta photo c1958) at our location in Labrador. They were connected to  the power panel and tested by a technician from A-C. In the evenings he talked about photography and his assignment in the tropics. His camera was an Exakta with a Zeiss 58mm Biotar lens. The front element was badly scratched making it essential to keep strong light (like sunlight) behind the camera. He explained that the tropics were so humid that moisture condensed on camera and lens forcing him to constantly clean the soft front element of the lens, hence the scratches.

Decades later, our Vice-President, John K. discovered a wooden tropical camera called “King’s Own Tropical Camera”. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, cameras were made of polished wood rather than wood and leather since the wood was better able to resist the rot and mildew of the tropics.

John relates, “One day I was online and spotted a rarity I had been hunting for since my childhood – the elusive and very rare King’s Own Tropical camera made by the London Stereographic Co. As I tried to contact them, the virtual shop it was in disappeared and the only information I had was the city in South Africa where the shop was located and a photograph of the front of the antique shop with the name on the glass.

“I am so grateful that we live in an age where virtually everything is at your fingertips and by the next morning I had found the shop’s address and phone number. After talking to the lady who owned the shop, I found out the South African Post Office had gone on strike and they could not ship anything out, so they shut down their on- line store to wait out the strike (something I could sympathize with).”

As a member, you can read the rest of John’s article in 46-3 pdf version or the Vol 46 Annual pages 64, 65. Not a Member? Easy-peasy, just break out your plastic (VISA, MasterCard, etc.), follow the rules at the upper right of this page and sign up via PayPal (no PayPal account needed – we will pay the modest fee). Membership is an incredible bargain. Period! Then send me an email at info@phsc.ca and I will send along 46-3 in pdf format.


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from hard copy edition of Vol 46 – Look What You are Missing

Toronto. For a handful of our members, their email addresses are mia – missing in action. Over the past months, Editor Bob Lansdale has stepped up to the COVID-19 situation and promoted extra issues and supplements be made as pdf files to be sent only to members. I added a tag on our distribution service (MailChimp) after much prodding to ensure this members-only guideline could be followed.

Realizing many members without emails on file would see nothing from the society and to paraphrase the US Military slogan as “Leave No One Behind”, Bob campaigned to send a hard copy of all five issues of volume 46 (a custom mix of full colour and black and white pages re-done by Bob personally) to all members without an email. On investigation, this came down to a mere handful so a decision was made to also offer the hard copy to those with email addresses and the caveat to send a copy only if requested, helping limit the cost and number of copies to be mailed.

Our press agent (Aries) was willing to package and deliver this annual, while our membership secretary offered to mail all issues. Sadly, we are still missing a few emails for some members. If you happen to be one (i.e. you saw nothing from MailChimp about the pdf copies of the journal or supplements) then email me at info@phsc.ca and I will see that your address goes to both MailChimp and our Membership Secretary (and is correctly tagged).

Not a member? Easy-peasy, just break out your plastic (VISA, MasterCard, etc.), follow the rules at the upper right of this page and sign up via PayPal (no PayPal account needed – we will pay the modest fee). Membership is an incredible bargain. Period!

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another way to skin a cat

Ad for Yashica Electro 35GT camera

Toronto. It’s the 1970s and your camera doesn’t have a socket for the ubiquitous magicubes. Nor can it use Kodak’s super simple Instamatic film cartridges. What do you do? Well Yashica advertised that their cameras let you take indoor photos without flash! Mind you, even then a tripod was necessary given the slow speed of colour film.

Today’s smartphone users for the most part are blissfully unaware that auto exposure and auto flash along with fast sensors simply eliminate any need for tripods or external flash – just a youthful steady hand for good indoor shots.

In the above ad from page 20 of the May 14, 1971 issue of LIFE magazine, Yashica touted their Electro 35GT 35mm film camera with its fast lens (f/1.7) and automatic CdS light intensity sensor, and computer controlled shutter.  The line featured aperture priority – for a given light intensity, adjust the aperture for depth of field and the shutter automatically speeds up or slows down. And the lens far exceeds the capabilities of the less expensive box cameras packaged to look like fancy 35mm cameras at a fraction of the price.

If you spot the catch-light in the baby’s eyes, you can see soft illumination was perhaps from a close by window and daylight. Even then, a tripod may have been needed and not just a photo prop for this ad.

Thanks  again to friend and fellow PHSC member, George Dunbar, for showing us this delightful piece of photographic history!

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