follow da money

A free professional camera …

Toronto. When I was a kid, magazines were rife with ads offering ways to get rich. These ads made it seem so easy.

The ad at left, was aimed at wishful future photographers. The ad even promised a free “professional camera”, whatever that was. In 1925, when International Studios, Inc of Chicago ran this ad, $50 to $100 a week was a fortune earned by very few. In fact, three decades later, I made less than $25 a week in a small Ontario town (fresh out of school and with an amateur radio licence in hand). In the early years of the 1900s, Chicago was well known for its studios – all be it movie studios – giving credence to this advertisement.

Nothing is free. Companies like this made their money by selling the naive and gullible wanna be’s instructions. In this ad, the make and details of the free “professional camera” were purposely left unstated so the reader could ┬ádream about this potential bargain. Sadly, the profession of photography took (and takes) SKILL, especially in 1925. A very intelligent person could learn the art free by visiting his local library and borrowing the photography books of the day. He would still need to have good salesmanship and business acumen to succeed – tough to get by answering an ad.

The money saved by the aspiring photographer was better spent on a good camera of his choice. Studio and darkroom could be set up at home initially and later moved to a more promising location once the business began to prosper.

A big thank you to friend and PHSC member (as well as photography historian), George Dunbar, for sharing this tidbit of history with me. Today such ads have been replaced with telemarketers and unsolicited emails – some valid, many crooked to put it mildly (I am a sceptic by nature).

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